WILMINGTON — The process of selling New Hanover Regional Medical Center took another step forward on Tuesday night, with the hospital’s board signing off on Novant as the recommended buyer — the board discussed more concrete plans for where the proceeds from that sale might go.
The NHRMC Board of Trustees approved the Partnership Advisory Group (PAG) recommendation of Novant over the other top-tier finalists, despite a last-minute, $2-billion offer from Atrium Health (considered by some to be the frontrunner). Novant’s mutual agreement with UNC Health — which would help sustain and develop local medical education — played a major roll in the PAG’s decision.
The Board of Trustees also discussed where some of the roughly $1.9 billion in sale proceeds might go, including several ‘concepts’ put apparently put forward by New Hanover County Commissioners.
The lion’s share of those proceeds would go to a $1.25 billion community foundation, managed by the county, which would “provide financial support to health and social equity, local education, community development, and community safety.” The broad scope of the fund will likely be up for discussion by commissioners as the sale process continues.
The use of the proceeds would also include putting $200 million into a fund that would “support NHRMC employees and area providers.” The ‘NHRMC Team Investment and Resiliency Fund’ would “ensure [a] beneficial transition from NHRMC’s existing pension plan to Novant Health’s retirement plan and support staff and provider retention and resiliency initiatives,” according to NHRMC.
Plans also include $300 million for what County Commissioners called a ‘New Hanover County Revenue Stabilization Fund,’ which would “help protect local taxpayers from unexpected expenses and downturns,” presumably including budget shortfalls associated with financial crises like the one prompted by Covid-19 and emergency spending like recovery efforts following hurricanes.
There would also be $50 million placed in a ‘Mental and Behavioral Health Fund.’ Details on how that would be allocated and administered will likely be discussed by County staff and commissioners in the weeks to come if the sale is approved.
County Commissioners will take up the sale issues during their July 13 meeting. If approved, a ‘letter of intent’ will be sent to Novant and the process will head to a public hearing before a final vote is taken. There is no set date for that final vote, but commissioners have speculated it could take place in August.