With a historic transfer of ownership Monday, New Hanover Regional Medical Center ended nearly 53 years as a county-owned hospital and became part of Winston-Salem-based Novant Health.
Signs and banners on the NHRMC campus marked Day One of the union of the two hospital systems but no large-scale event was held, in keeping with pandemic-related restrictions. NHRMC names and logos will continue to be used until a final decision is made on branding, officials with NHRMC and Novant Health said.
“Today has to be the most exciting time in our history, and it’s not just me. You know this is exciting for our patients and our community because this really gives us the opportunity to do so much more for our region,” said John Gizdic, who greeted hospital employees Monday morning sporting a Novant pullover.
Gizdic, president and CEO of NHRMC, now absorbs the title of president of the Novant Health greater Eastern market, as Novant establishes a hub in this part of the state.
Novant Health, a not-for-profit health system, operates a network of hospitals, physician clinics and outpatient facilities across North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Virginia.
It already operated Novant Health Brunswick Medical Center, which now falls under the structure of NHRMC.
The nearly $2 billion purchase – as well as additional commitments for future capital investments and an agreement with UNC’s medical program at NHRMC – sets Novant up to significantly expand its presence in Southeastern North Carolina.
“We will invest a lot in the community, but we want to make sure we’re prioritizing, what physicians, team members, the local board and the local management team advises to start with,” Novant CEO Carl Armato said.
Integration will take time, Gizdic said, adding “you want to do this very thoughtfully and make sure we do this appropriately.”
While a number of details still need to be worked out, there also are many decisions already made.
NHRMC’s agreement to manage Pender Memorial Hospital, for example, has been extended an additional two years over the current term.
“We are expanding our pediatric specialties,” Gizdic also said, “and we’ll be getting those in place over the coming months, as well as new clinical research opportunities that are launching in the very near future. A lot of exciting things that are starting, but a lot more to come.”
Here are some of the other immediate changes that take place now that the sale has closed.
As of Feb. 1, Novant’s purchase of NHRMC widened the scope of charity care available to individuals facing financial difficulties, raising the qualification level for such care from 200% of the federal poverty level to 300% as Novant’s more liberal policy took hold.
Jobs and benefits
The agreement to buy NHRMC enshrined Novant’s pledge to retain all of the Wilmington system’s employees at the time of closing for a minimum of two years “at their then-current salaries, job title, reporting structure and responsibilities.”
NHRMC’s hourly workers will continue to receive a $12.50 wage but will transition to Novant Health’s $15 per-hour minimum within the first 100 days of closing.
New Hanover Community Endowment
When N.C. Attorney General Josh Stein did not object to the hospital sale, he imposed conditions that largely affected the New Hanover Community Endowment, the independent philanthropic foundation created with an infusion of $1.25 billion of sale proceeds.
Strengthened community representation is being put in place across the endowment’s organizational structure, a topic that was discussed by the foundation’s board Jan. 28.
Stein called on the board to create two additional seats to be filled with individuals conversant in public health, underserved populations or racial equity and justice; to increase from two to four the number of annual public disclosures on grants and other distributions; to hold at least two listening sessions for public input on how the endowment should distribute funds; and to form a community advisory committee.
For more details about some of those upcoming changes, pick up the Greater Wilmington Business Journal’s new edition Friday.