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OpEd: Partnership Advisory Group Is Focusing On Facts

By Barb Biehner and Spence Broadhurst, posted Nov 20, 2019
As the co-chairs of the Partnership Advisory Group (PAG), we understand there is a lot riding on our work and the recommendation we ultimately make to the New Hanover Regional Medical Center (NHRMC) Board of Trustees and County Commissioners for the future of NHRMC.
 
Our work over the next several months is to understand what the pros and cons are among many different options – from remaining county-owned to the far end of selling, and the many other options that exist in between.
 
Our minds are not made up. Each of the 21 members on the PAG have different backgrounds and opinions. Currently, I think we can safely say that none of us is in favor of selling the hospital because none of us has enough information. We are just beginning to really evaluate the goals and objectives we want to be outlined in the Request for Proposals. We are just beginning to gather all the facts. We don’t have all the information yet – so none of us can know the outcome.
 
We understand that many in the community were caught off-guard by the conversation around the hospital’s future. We all love NHRMC and appreciate it as a local asset, but the truth is that this type of conversation has been happening for decades and is a responsible step to understand what all our options are. Healthcare is changing and we must be proactive to change with it, or we won’t have the kind of healthcare in our community that we all deserve.
 
But what does that change mean? And is there a way to change and adapt to a new healthcare landscape without changing owners or taking on a new partner? The mission of the PAG is to find out, and that is the charge given to us by the Board of Commissioners.
 
We are following a very detailed charter (which you can view online here) that helps to guide our process to do what is in best interest of the citizens and healthcare providers of New Hanover County and the surrounding communities, and to do what is in the best interest of NHRMC to fulfill its mission and meet its charitable purposes now and into the future. And that is what we will focus on in the months ahead.

Right now we are in the process of helping to shape the RFP that will be sent out either later this year or early next year. Proposals may come back to purchase the hospital. Others may be a partnership or some other type of affiliation. We won’t know all of the options or possibilities until those come back.
 
In addition to that, we will be evaluating staying independent. That will be at least two months of our conversations at PAG meetings – to understand what it would take, what the limitations would be, and ways we could still meet the hospital’s goals while remaining county-owned and independent.  
 
It is going to be a lot of work, but we are all committed to focus on the facts and to put every effort into reaching the best recommendation for the people who live, work and seek healthcare here.
 
We all want the same thing: to ensure the hospital remains a viable and important resource for our community that is delivering high-quality, affordable healthcare to our region. How we accomplish that and what form the future takes is what is in question now.
 
We appreciate the community’s opinions on this and their passion for the hospital. We hope that as we go through this process, you will all follow along to our discussions (you can see all of our meeting presentations, minutes, and other documents at www.NHRMCfuture.org). And you can share your feedback with us by emailing [email protected].
 
We are on a fact-finding mission, we are committed to this process, and we are taking our time to ensure transparency and thoughtful deliberations. We hope you will take our lead and be open-minded, focusing on the facts of the process and not speculation.
 
This decision will impact all of us, and we take that very seriously. So help us as we move forward, share the facts, and be part of a positive solution – so that we can all, together, achieve the best future for NHRMC.
 
Barb Biehner and Spence Broadhurst are co-chairs of the Partnership Advisory Group.
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