Novant Health this week finalized its deal with UNC to expand its longtime presence at New Hanover Regional Medical Center if Novant is chosen as NHRMC’s buyer.
The Winston-Salem-based health system, one of three systems that want to acquire county-owned NHRMC, previously announced a month ago
that it had signed a letter of intent with UNC Health and UNC School of Medicine about New Hanover Regional.
In their proposals for NHRMC, the other two health systems being considered as finalists brought with them plans for expanding medical education. Atrium Health said it would partner with Wake Forest School of Medicine, and Duke Health has emphasized that it brings its own academic platform.
“We signed the terms of our agreement to develop a long-term academic clinical affiliation to bring together the leading education, research and clinical program to help serve the New Hanover region. And of course, this affiliation is contingent on Novant Health being selected to partner with New Hanover Regional Medical Center,” Novant Health President and CEO Carl Armato said Thursday. “But overall, we’re excited by the opportunity to combine the best of teaching research and clinical care to serve the residents of Southeastern North Carolina for decades to come.”
Under the partnership, the local branch of the UNC School of Medicine would grow from 18 to 30 students by 2026. Faculty development would be enhanced, ties for medical students wanting to work in rural parts of the state would be expanded and a new UNC Health Sciences campus would be based out of South Eastern Area Health Education Center (SEAHEC).
“There’s a grand vision around what this could potentially be,” Pam Oliver, executive vice president at Novant and president of the Novant Health Physician Network, said about the proposed UNC Health Sciences campus. “And a lot of this is contingent on the community and the New Hanover Regional Medical Center board aligning on this potential growth.”
Novant officials said they would explore working with the University of North Carolina Wilmington public health programs but have not yet had discussions with the school about that.
The partnership also would extend UNC’s clinical research infrastructure to Wilmington, Armato said.
“We want to collaborate on clinical trials and population health study,” he said. “We want to have an academic emphasis on community health challenges, opioid addiction, social determinants of health and health equity.”
Enhancing pediatric care from both clinical and educational perspectives is the third area Novant officials are focusing on with the partnership with UNC Health and UNC School of Medicine.
“UNC Health will help to recruit on-site faculty and provide clinical pediatric specialty,” Armato said. “We’re also going to work with local providers – obviously that are already in the market, those that are in the medical group, those that are independent – to really collaborate on expanding those clinical pediatric specialties."
The partnership would include “a children’s clinical service-line partnership with UNC Children’s at Novant Health-affiliated sites in New Hanover and adjacent counties; create outreach clinics and provide telehealth services from Chapel Hill; [and] provide access to complex care services,” a news release stated.
Charlotte-based Atrium, which is currently forging a partnership with Wake Forest Baptist Health and Wake Forest School of Medicine to create what they call the next generation school of medicine, also has signed a memo of understanding
specifically getting Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center’s backing for what Atrium submitted in its proposal for expanding medical education and research at NHRMC.
And Duke Health pointed out in a recent letter to the Partnership Advisory Group
that as an academic health system it already comes with a permanent and fully integrated platform.
“NHRMC and its community’s desire for world-class healthcare cannot be emulated by third-party academic partnerships that may or may not endure,” wrote Eugene Washington, chancellor of health affairs at Duke University and president and CEO of Duke University Health System. “The outcomes and success of a globally recognized healthcare enterprise are the result of a methodical, strategic, and focused platform well executed over decades.”