Thursday, January 27, 2022

Deep dive series: The multi-billion-dollar hospital vote [Free]

$1.25 billion in sale proceeds for New Hanover Regional Medical Center will soon be re-routed into a ‘private’ community foundation, according to New Hanover County’s plans. (Port City Daily photo/Johanna F. Still)

NEW HANOVER COUNTY — Just weeks ahead of one of the most monumental local decisions in decades, key details about the sale of New Hanover Regional Medical Center to Novant Health emerged; since then, other facets have remained unclear, even hours ahead of the vote.

The decision to sell will reverberate throughout the community. As the county’s largest employer, the sale will impact the lives of NHRMC’s 7,500 employees.

It will also impact the nearly half-million residents who rely on the hospital network for healthcare. Ahead of Monday’s vote at 4 p.m., Port City Daily published a series of articles on key components of the sale, addressing lingering questions and concerns before commissioners prepare to sell the community-owned hospital to the non-profit, Novant Health.

Catch up on the series:

Part 1: A split board in flux prepares to vote weeks before election

A majority of commissioners’ seats expire this year, leaving this major decision in the hands of an outgoing and split board. The hospital vote is taking place just weeks before early voting begins, leaving open questions as to why the decision is taking place before — not after — the election.

Tensions rose last week among commissioners, with back-and-forth arguments as they prepared to cast a vote Monday.

Part 2: Attorney General will get final say

After commissioners approve the sale, the Attorney General will get at least 30 and as much as 60 days to review all agreement documentation. The hospital originally contested this review process, arguing to the AG that the specific statute governing this review process didn’t apply to them.

The AG’s office later informed the hospital the review process did indeed apply to them.

Part 3: Documents tweaked at the last minute, public weighed in on incomplete proposal

On Monday, Sept. 28, New Hanover County held its final public hearing on the hospital sale, giving the public one last chance to weigh in on the decision.

But the documents available ahead of the last hearing were incomplete, with changes made up until 72 hours until the vote. Why didn’t the county wait to allow commissioners and the public more time to review a final version of the paperwork ahead of the vote?

Part 4: So, the vote passes. What’s next?

Questions about employment security, pensions, and benefits have swirled since word that the sale would likely go through settled in. Novant has imposed a layoff moratorium of sorts, which will address many concerns. The new owner could also sell the hospital to a new owner — including a for-profit company, an unpopular scenario. It’s an outcome local officials don’t find ideal but accounted for in the agreement paperwork.

Plus, a state senator insists wrongdoing occurred on behalf of the county early on in the process, and believes the AG’s review will uncover evidence of criminal wrongdoing.


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