Monday, March 20, 2023

Michael Jordan’s $10m gift to Novant Health surprised health officials and county leadership

Novant announced a $10m gift from Michael Jordan to open two clinics in New Hanover County that serve uninsured and underinsured individuals. (Port City Daily/Courtesy Novant Health)

NEW HANOVER COUNTY — Michael Jordan gave Novant Health $10 million, the company announced Monday, earmarked for the construction of two medical clinics in New Hanover County. The clinics will target uninsured and underinsured individuals in need of healthcare. 

The announcement comes two weeks after the sale of New Hanover Regional Medical Center to Novant Health was formally executed. Company leaders are touting the move, as it signals Novant Health’s ability to funnel resources into the county. 

Read More: NHRMC sale set to become final: Novant takes over with gradual transition

The two clinics are expected to be completed by early 2022, and a Novant Health spokesperson declined to add additional details about their location. After publication, a company spokesperson sent the following statement: “Novant Health’s first step will be to work community partners and organizations to hear their needs and from there, determine the best location to serve those communities.”

“When we set out to partner with New Hanover Regional Medical Center, we made it absolutely clear that one of our top priorities was to improve health outcomes in southeastern North Carolina, with access to affordable care for all,” Carl Armato, Novant Health CEO, said in a press release. “With Michael’s gift, we’ll be able to more quickly, and directly, have an impact.”

“CBS This Morning” broke the news at around 8:30 a.m. Monday morning, and Novant hosted a press conference shortly after. 

John Gizdic, the former CEO of NHRMC who was transitioned into an executive vice president role at Novant Health, said Jordan’s donation would help actualize healthcare improvements to the region.

“Our region here in southeastern North Carolina really suffers from some of the highest poverty levels in the state,” he said at the press conference. “And on top of that, we have some of the lowest health scores in the state. And that’s in a state that ranks in the bottom half of the country for health scores.” 

Jordan previously contributed $7 million to Novant Health to finance two Michael Jordan Family Clinics in Charlotte. The two Charlotte locations have served more than 4,500 patients since completion, and have hosted nearly 1,000 Covid-19 vaccinations in recent months. 

“I am very proud to once again partner with Novant Health to expand the Family Clinic model to bring better access to critical medical services in my hometown,” Jordan said in a press release. “Everyone should have access to quality health care, no matter where they live, or whether or not they have insurance. Wilmington holds a special place in my heart and it’s truly gratifying to be able to give back to the community that supported me throughout my life.” 

Jordan lived in Wilmington and attended Laney High School, where UNC coach Dean Smith scouted him at a basketball game in 1980. Jordan graduated from Laney in 1981, and went on to play for the UNC Tar Heels from 1981 through 1984 before taking on his NBA career with the Chicago Bulls. Jordan purchased the Charlotte Hornets in 2010.

Novant Health previously partnered with the Charlotte Hornets to host a mass-vaccination site for more than 2,000 people at the Spectrum Center last weekend. 

Jordan’s donation to Novant came as a surprise to local government officials. Spokespeople for Brunswick and New Hanover counties said local leadership was not notified of the announcement in advance. A spokesperson for the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services said the department is not involved in private donations to hospital systems. 

When asked if NHRMC was provided advance notice, a hospital spokesperson said: “Leadership knew that Novant Health’s hope was that Michael Jordan would sponsor at least one clinic in the area for months. As soon as Michael Jordan committed the funds, local leadership was notified.” 

Randy Jordan is the CEO of the N.C. Association of Free and Charitable Clinics, a nonprofit organization that includes 70 member clinics throughout the state.

Those clinics, like Novant Health Michael Jordan Family Medical Clinic, are designed to provide primary care and support services to vulnerable communities within their regions.

“Usually, it’s a pretty tight community in the safety net provider world in North Carolina,” Jordan said. “We work hard to stay collaborative and aware of each others’ work, so that we can be helpful and cooperative.” 

Jordan said he first learned of the NBA Hall of Famer’s gift to Novant Health when the news broke Monday morning. 

“It seemed a little out of character for such a thing to have caught at least the community that we work within by surprise,” he said. “So, I think everybody is eager to see whether this means there’s an opportunity for collaboration.”

Member institutions of the NCAFCC have worked in this realm for decades, Jordan said. Cape Fear Clinic, a well-established healthcare provider for low-income residents, opened 30 years ago with the goal of providing healthcare to the underserved community.  

“They want to keep their head down and focused on serving uninsured and underinsured populations,” Jordan said, referencing Cape Fear Clinic and the long-standing network of free and charitable clinics across the state. “And they know that to do so successfully in a community requires these close connections. I think the new-ness of the Novant role in Wilmington maybe adds a little to the surprise, but I think the greater hope is that great good will come out of this investment.” 

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