NEW HANOVER COUNTY — Though votes to secure a raise in the minimum wage to $15 failed by 58 in the Senate two days ago (as part of the latest $1.9 trillion Covid-19 relief bill), Novant is following through on its promise to employees of its newly acquired New Hanover Regional Medical Center.
A hospital spokesperson announced the hospital increased employee pay to $15 per hour as of Feb. 21.
“Healthy wages are not just a recruitment tool,” said John Gizdic, Novant Health executive vice president and chief business development officer, in a press release.
Gizdic was previously the CEO of NHRMC.
“When employees earn higher wages, they have better access to key elements of health and the resources to improve their communities,” he added.
After the long-awaited sale of NHRMC to Novant Health closed last month, questions began to crop up about the future of the institution. Community members wondered how privatization would affect the region’s healthcare.
“This roughly $3 million investment will directly support approximately 1,100 team members and their families,” Gizdic said.
In early February, a hospital spokesperson said the minimum-wage increase would be implemented within the first 100 days of Novant’s ownership. About 7,000 employees were added to the Novant payroll from the hospital sale.
Previously, “NHRMC implemented an $11.50 healthy community wage in 2017,” according to the press release. “It was later increased to $11.85 and then to $12.50.”
Novant Health also quickly engaged with New Hanover County’s Covid-19 operations. While county leaders say the two entities are still in the process of getting to know one another, a Memorandum of Understanding has been signed that encourages collaboration and mutual support in conducting “mass vaccination events.”
During a news briefing concerning the hospital sale closure, Gizdic and Novant Health Carl Amato detailed early priorities. Initially among those was construction of a new hospital in Scotts Hill, an idea shot down by state authorities. Other priorities include:
- Expanding UNC Health specialty clinics in the Wilmington area
- Expanding and exceeding the relationship with Pender Memorial Hospital in Burgaw
- Developing a closer working relationship with Novant Brunswick Medical Center
- Finding a more unified approach on Covid-19 vaccination efforts
- Adding more ambulatory health-care centers that are closer to where patients live.
As well, when Novant Health took over New Hanover County’s hospital, a new charitable-care policy took effect. While previously NHRMC capped its income threshold for charitable care at 200% of the federal poverty level, Novant Health has a company-wide policy that no one earning less than 300% of the federal poverty level ever receives a bill for services.
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