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Petition Circulates About New Foundation From Hospital Sale

By Christina Haley O'Neal, posted Jan 6, 2021
Former state legislator Harper Peterson is circulating a petition and letter to the state attorney general’s office as the state agency continues its review of New Hanover Regional Medical Center's sale to Novant Health.

More than 410 people have signed the petition and added more than 110 comments as of Wednesday morning, said Peterson, the former District 9 state senator who sent out the petition and letter to Attorney General Josh Stein this week

“This response sends a clear message that the community is not in support of the actions being taken by the NHC Commission, NHRMC Board of Trustees and the newly formed New Hanover Community Endowment and their intentions to privately manage, invest and disperse $1.25 billion in public assets,” said Peterson in an email.

The letter addresses concerns over more public oversight of the funds as well as input on financial decision making.

The letter states that the sale proceeds should be "exclusively for projects that will advance public health and health equity" and that "mission and values statement should be publicly available before the board members are selected," states the document.

It also outlines concerns regarding the formation of the New Hanover County Community Endowment Inc., an entity that would oversee the $1.25 billion county share of hospital sale proceeds. 

The letter states a view that members of the board should reflect the diversity of the community, and have track records in "healthcare, health equity, and/or the Social Determinants of Health."

When asked about the petition and the concerns in Peterson's letter, New Hanover County officials said in a statement, “The Board of Commissioners established the New Hanover Community Endowment to ensure our residents would benefit from the proceeds of a sale for generations to come.

"The endowment will be led by local community members who come from diverse backgrounds and care about the people who live here, and the priorities of the endowment that were outlined by the Board of Commissioners will have a direct impact on many social determinants of health that exist in our community.” 

The letter also states that the appointment of the 11-member endowment board "feels premature at best," and prior to the deal closing, among a number of other concerns. 

Peterson said he put out the petition and the letter so that the community would have a chance to weigh in and be heard by the state attorney general. Peterson was also a part of Save Our Hospital Inc., a nonprofit group that formed in opposition to the hospital's sale. 

“The whole purpose of this letter was to carry feedback from people, regular citizens, the citizens of New Hanover County, that feel they have been left out of the process. That’s the objective of this,” Peterson said.

Members of the attorney general's office confirmed Wednesday that it has received Peterson's letter.

The hospital deal is currently under review by the state attorney general's office, a review required by state law.

The review follows the New Hanover County Board of Commissioners' 4-1 vote in early October to accept the proposed deal and $1.25 billion in county proceeds.

"Our review process is currently ongoing," said Nazneen Ahmed, senior communications and policy adviser for the N.C. Department of Justice, in an email Wednesday.

"Novant Health will need to ensure that the conditions established in state law are met in the transaction. These include guaranteeing that health care services are protected, charity care continues to be provided, no one is denied essential medical care because of an inability to pay, Medicare and Medicaid patients are protected from discrimination, the new buyer provides an annual report to show how it is complying with the sale requirements, and that no individual is denied care or discriminated against based on their race, creed, color, sex, or national origin," Ahmed said.

"Our office is also reviewing this transaction to ensure it complies with antitrust laws," he added. "Finally, we are closely reviewing the new foundation that is being set up to receive the county's net cash proceeds from the transaction."

Ahmed said that all is taking place under one review, which is ongoing with no projected completion date.

Last month, the final picks for the newly established board for the New Hanover Community Endowment Inc. were named, along with the board's chairman, Spence Broadhurst, who was vice-chair of the Partnership Advisory Group.

In a response Wednesday to the petition and letter to the attorney general, Broadhurst said, “Our county’s elected leaders have structured our community endowment to provide the maximum benefit for our entire community. The members of the endowment board are honored to have been appointed to lead this community-driven, transformational opportunity.

"Once all approvals are received and the sale is complete, our in-depth work will begin. We are committed to and will be driven by openness, transparency and accountability and will develop policies that reflect the respect we have for this enormous responsibility,” Broadhurst said.
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