The strength of a community’s medical care is dependent on the people who provide it. For years, surveyors and visitors have remarked on the impressive collection of talented physicians and medical providers available to serve this community. From the range of specialists and sub-specialists to the collective dedication to driving quality and solving some of our toughest challenges, our medical community serves as an example for others to follow.
It’s understandable, then, that many would be at least a little concerned about things changing. When NHRMC and New Hanover County leaders announced that the county commissioners will consider whether to pursue a potential new ownership structure for our healthcare system, it prompted many questions about what this would mean for our patients and the provider community that cares for them.
In my roles as surgeon, Chief of the NHRMC Medical Staff, and Program Director of the Surgical Residency Program, I see and experience the day-to-day challenges our physicians face, appreciate how our organization is adapting and preparing for changes in the industry, and have a desire to impact the future of medical practice for the students who will help take us forward.
Working alongside my colleagues, I see the biggest challenge we face is keeping pace with our growing community. As more people move to southeastern North Carolina and the population ages, the demand for healthcare services grows. Teams of physicians and mid-level providers working with hospital leaders and clinicians have done tremendous work improving efficiencies to deliver increasingly better care to an increasing number of patients. Still, more work needs to be done.
Part of the solution involves providing more care options out in the community. With accessible options, we can better manage health outside the hospital settings. Another part of the solution is growing our medical staff and the team of clinical professionals available to care for all those we serve. Both solutions take investments in facilities, technology and people. As a standalone county-owned system, NHRMC is somewhat restrained in its ability to make such large financial commitments as quickly as we may need them. It’s one reason I’m open to learning if a larger healthcare system could accelerate our work.
As the Chief of the NHRMC Medical Staff I have the opportunity to be the physicians’ representative on the NHRMC Board of Trustees. This has given me a wider view of how our situation fits with the broader changes ahead for healthcare providers. While everyone wants better healthcare for lower costs, there are a myriad of opinions on how to deliver it. How the industry will change is an unknown. Being part of a larger system with the resources to help us pivot to a new reality could be beneficial.
Finally, my role as the Program Director for our surgical residency program keeps me in touch with the next generation of physicians. They come to us excited to be a part of this amazing profession and passionate about saving lives and helping people through their toughest times. I want them to retain that passion and find fulfillment in their careers. We need them, right here in our community. To keep them, we’ll have to find ways to help them be a part of always making healthcare better, with the resources to try new things and the voice to guide what’s best for our patients.
These are the things that are important to me, and to many of those I represent on the NHRMC Medical Staff. I appreciate the conversation around what is best to ensure our healthcare community is positioned to provide exceptional care into the future. I urge others to join this discussion, not with a pre-conceived opinion on whether there should be a change of ownership for NHRMC, but with an open mind to address what’s most important: what do we want for our patients and how can we work together to provide it.
William Hope, MD, FACS, was elected by physician colleagues to serve as the Chief of Staff of New Hanover Regional Medical Center. He is a surgeon with NHRMC Physician Specialists - General Surgery Specialists and program director of surgical residency at NHRMC.