Thursday, July 18, 2024

Novant lays off workers, local chief community impact officer ahead of moratorium expiration

Dr. Phillip Brown at the announcement of the Michael Jordan clinic to be built on Princess Place Drive. (Port City Daily/Shea Carver)

NEW HANOVER COUNTY — Novant Health, operator of New Hanover Regional Medical Center, is laying off employees across the state. 

A Novant Health spokesperson told Port City Daily the systemwide reduction affected less than 50 people over its 35,000-plus employees. They declined to specify how many were let go from NHRMC or its multiple other Novant facilities in New Hanover County. 

READ MORE: Fed report confirms Novant’s insufficient staffing, nurses detail to PCD problem extends beyond ER

“Like so many healthcare providers around the country, Novant Health continues to feel the lingering effects of the pandemic and its impact on the costs of providing care,” the spokesperson said. 

One let-go employee was Dr. Phillip Brown, who served as chief executive physician and chief of staff before Novant bought the hospital in 2021. Brown then moved to chief community impact officer, where he often highlighted issues at the intersection of health and other socioeconomic factors. 

His position was part of Novant’s diversity, inclusion and equity team.

Recently, Brown was present at Novant’s location announcements for the upcoming Michael Jordan clinics, to be built at Greenfield Street and also on Princess Place Drive. He told Port City Daily at the time that he and Novant were focused on “filling a gap” to provide equitable health to historically marginalized populations.

READ MORE:  Novant breaks ground on Wilmington’s first Michael Jordan clinic

Novant did not respond by press whether the opening will be replaced with a new hire. PCD will update the piece when and if a response is returned.

ALSO: Second Michael Jordan clinic to serve Wilmington’s eastside community

Brown posted his position was terminated Monday on social media earlier this week. Port City Daily reached out to Brown, who said he can’t speak at this time. 

Novant Health declined to answer if it requires employees to sign non-disclosure agreements upon beginning work or to receive severance. 

New Hanover County and Novant’s 2021 asset purchase agreement stipulated most employees would be protected from layoffs for two years starting Feb. 1, when the deal closed. That agreement ends next Wednesday. 

Severance packages for let go employees will begin that day as well, according to Novant. 

In the two years since Novant took over, the healthcare provider has been embroiled in criticism and misconduct.

Last summer, the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare threatened to revoke NHRMC’s Medicare contract for hospital conditions that caused, or was likely to cause, serious injury, harm, impairment or death to a patient. One person coded while in the emergency room waiting area. 

CMS’s findings came after investigators’ observations from June 21 to June 29, around a month after Novant decided to significantly reduce its reliance on travel nurses. In multiple parts of the report, NHRMC was cited for failing to provide adequate staffing in the ER and, as nurses corroborated, other departments were also operating without enough staff and unsafe patient-to-staff ratios.

As part of its action plan to address the violations, NHRMC began hiring more travel workers over the summer months. However, in a press conference on Sept. 9, John Gizdic, executive vice president and chief business development officer of NHRMC, said the hospital’s habit of relying on travel nurses is not “financially sustainable.”

Novant did not answer if it plans to terminate more employees in the near future. 

“We are doing everything we can to strengthen Novant Health for the future while minimizing the impact to our teams,” a spokesperson wrote to PCD.

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