Frequently Asked Questions & Answers
Is the hospital being sold?
No decisions have been made. At its September 3 meeting, the New Hanover County Board of Commissioners will vote on whether to accept proposals from larger health systems. If the majority of Commissioners vote in favor of accepting proposals, the systems will be evaluated on their ability to invest in, and accelerate, the work NHRMC employees, providers and community agencies are doing to improve care and wellness throughout the region.
Why are we moving forward with this process?
In recent years, NHRMC has expanded its scope to embrace a mission of leading our community to outstanding health. The health system, through its strategic plan, is working toward a vision of the region serving as a model for health and wellness, with all residents having convenient access to affordable care that’s equitable and customized to their unique needs and preferences.
In pursuit of its mission and vision, NHRMC is committed to empowering employees and providers to innovate, not only to meet the needs of the growing population through advanced inpatient care, but also for ways to keep patients out of the hospital through programs that help them better manage their health. This approach recognizes that some of the biggest threats to wellness include lack of education, drug abuse, poverty and violence, and that partnerships with others working to eliminate these barriers are often the best path to success.
As NHRMC looks to the future, it is clear more resources are needed to invest in the people, technology and services that can make better health and wellness a reality. Yet, to prepare for the inevitable changes and disruption to the healthcare industry, the health system and county need to consider new ways to support the investments that can make a significant difference in the health of our community.
By considering whether a different ownership structure with a like-minded partner would better serve this community, the New Hanover County Commission is taking a prudent and proactive step to evaluate the best way to secure the future of healthcare in our region.
What are we hoping to achieve by exploring a new ownership structure?
County and NHRMC leaders are committed to discussing the best way to serve the needs of the community. One possible path forward is for NHRMC to become part of a larger healthcare system that could accelerate work to ensure members of our community are able to get the care and support they deserve in ways that are more convenient, affordable and customized to their needs.
What happens next?
NHRMC and New Hanover County leaders will host forums for the community to offer their opinions on what is most important to the future of health and wellness in the region. The opinions shared will help set priorities and define the vision of what the community would like to achieve.
At the Commission meeting on September 3, County Commissioners will discuss and decide whether to move forward with exploring potential partners to achieve that vision. If so, they will approve a Resolution of Intent to Sell. If this resolution passes, the county, in cooperation with NHRMC, will move forward with developing a Request for Proposals (RFP) based on the priorities identified. That RFP will then be distributed to organizations interested in partnering with NHRMC.
Once the RFPs are returned for review, potential partners will be evaluated on their ability to invest in, and accelerate, the work NHRMC employees, providers, and community agencies are doing to improve care and wellness throughout the region.
The proposals will be evaluated, and a recommendation will be made whether to move forward with one of the potential partners or maintain county ownership. Additional public, employee and physician forums will be held to share information prior to another vote of the New Hanover County Commissioners.
Why We’re Moving Forward with This Process
Why are we considering whether to seek a new partner?
We are a community that seeks innovative and creative solutions to improve health and the quality of life. We are open to determining if a partnership would add value to our community, helping expand access to care, manage costs and improve the health of the region.
A greater depth of resources from a larger healthcare system could help us solve some of the challenges we face more quickly than we can do alone.
Are we struggling financially?
No. NHRMC is clinically, financially and operationally strong today. Our strength puts us in a great position to go through this evaluative process and make the best decision about our future. We have great people who are working together to improve care and the health and well-being of our entire community. We recognize that, to build on this momentum, we need additional resources that will help us make investments in the people, services and technology that can make a difference.
Changes in the healthcare industry happen rapidly. To be prepared for what we see coming in the near-term as well as the more distant future, we need to make decisions now that will help secure care and services for the people we serve. It’s time to decide where and how we will provide more services, make them more affordable, and address the disparities in care that keep so many from achieving better health and wellness. By exploring our options now, we can be better prepared to choose the right path forward for our community.
Is there a possibility we won’t find a partner?
NHRMC is a strong system, nationally recognized for its quality and as a great place to work. If the county commissioners decide to move forward with soliciting bids, we expect there will be a lot of interest in partnering with the organization and furthering its success. We are in a position to choose the best ownership structure, whether it continues to be with the county or with a larger healthcare system that aligns with our goals and has the resources to advance them.
Who will make the decision?
Our County Commissioners, with the input of NHRMC’s board and senior leadership and a team of healthcare and legal advisors, will be working diligently together to chart the best course forward for our health system.
Who has expressed interest in partnering with NHRMC?
We do not know today who will submit if the Resolution of Intent to Sell is approved at the September 3 meeting of the commissioners. Based on the number and quality of responses, the list would be narrowed to those the County Commissioners want to explore more closely. Public meetings would be held throughout the process to keep the community informed and to seek input that will help shape our priorities and guide our decisions.
What are we looking for in a partner?
In evaluating the right ownership structure, we’ll consider who is best able to advance the following priorities that align with NHRMC’s strategic plan:
- Improving access to care and wellness through more consumer-centric options.
- Advancing the value of the care we provide through higher quality and lower costs, effectively managing the health of our region to not only treat the sick but keep them well.
- Achieving health equity through community partnerships and activities that remove barriers to care, enabling our residents to achieve their own optimal health.
- Supporting our staff and the culture that has made NHRMC one of the top places to work in the country.
- Partnering with providers to make southeastern North Carolina an excellent place to practice medicine so we can continue to attract talented and compassionate providers to care for our growing population.
- Driving quality care throughout the continuum and helping facilitate transitions with other providers to deliver more seamless and coordinated care models.
- Growing the level and scope of care already in place for all, regardless of ability to pay.
- Investing to ensure the long-term financial security and future of our health system.
What if the resolution for an RIS doesn’t pass?
In recent years, NHRMC has expanded its scope to embrace a mission of leading our community to outstanding health. The health system, through its strategic plan, will continue working toward a vision of the region serving as a model for health and wellness, with all residents having convenient access to affordable care that’s equitable and customized to their unique needs and preferences.
NHRMC and the county will continue to explore options for advancing NHRMC’s mission and strategic plan. Different forms of partnerships and arrangements will be considered to ensure NHRMC is able to meet the needs of the community as the healthcare industry changes and evolves.
What This Means
What would this mean for our employees?
NHRMC’s strength comes from the people who work within it. Any potential partner we would seriously consider will recognize the value of our extended team of employees, providers and advanced care providers. How an organization supports the growth, retention and well-being of our employees will be a primary consideration for us if the commissioners move forward with a vote to request proposals.
How would this impact employee pension and retirement plans?
If you are vested in your retirement plan, your retirement funds are secure. Any potential partner will have their own retirement plan with different ways of enrolling or transitioning to it, so it’s too early to speak to those details. But the vested funds are secure. We would address employees who are not yet vested during negotiations with a potential new system. We would likely ask that all active employees who are not currently vested become vested in whatever amount they have accrued up to the date of a retirement plan transition.
Is it true early retirement packages would be offered as part of a change in ownership?
This is just a rumor. Early retirement packages are not being considered. All the details of a change of ownership would come only after a vote by commissioners to solicit proposals, a thorough evaluation of those proposals, a vote on whether to move forward with a potential partner, and an extensive period of negotiation around terms of the agreement. We are a long way away from any potential discussion concerning benefits. As with all these considerations, you can be sure NHRMC will be negotiating for the best possible options for our employees and working to keep you with us for as long as we can.
What does this mean for employees enrolled in loan forgiveness programs?
There’s a Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program that employees may have applied for. We would continue to be a qualifying employer as long as we remain a tax-exempt, nonprofit organization. While we don’t know what the ultimate decisions will be, about 75% of hospitals are tax-exempt non-profit.
Is this why the Employee Engagement Survey was ended early?
Yes. The annual engagement survey is meant to be a look back at the entire year to get a clear picture of how that year contrasts to previous years and see whether improvements have been made. It would skew the results to include responses that would have been impacted by news that people would not have had time to digest. This keeps the year-to-year comparisons more accurate. We do, however, want to continue to understand how staff are feeling about the news so leaders are rounding throughout the organization. We’ll develop and share a more formal way for staff to share their ideas about what’s important to the future of health in this community in the coming weeks.
What would this mean for our providers?
The NHRMC Medical Staff includes an impressive array of specialties and expertise not often found in a community this size. That strength has made NHRMC the regional referral center it is today. Provider involvement in advancing care is also higher than ever and driving many improvements in quality care and outcomes. It is critically important to this region that the medical staff continues to grow and serve. Making southeastern North Carolina a great place to practice so we can attract and retain a strong provider community will be a priority for us and any potential partner we would choose.
What would this mean for our Foundation?
The NHRMC Foundation plays an important role in providing care and special services to our patients, as well as support for our employees. Gifts made to the NHRMC Foundation will continue to be used for this purpose. In evaluating a potential partner, we would consider how they would advance the type of support the foundation provides to our community and employees.
Would there be layoffs?
NHRMC’s strength comes from the people who work within it. Any system we would seriously consider will recognize the value of our extended team of employees and providers. One of our top priorities would be a commitment to supporting the staff and culture that has made NHRMC one of the top places to work. How an organization supports the growth, retention, and well-being of our employees will be a primary consideration for us if the commissioners move forward with a vote to request proposals.
What would happen to our leadership team?
It’s too early to answer this definitively. However, ensuring continuity of leadership is a top priority if the county moves forward with a change in ownership. We are looking to partner with a health system that values, and invests in, its leadership and their development.
How would this impact services?
NHRMC’s priority will continue to be providing exceptional care to our patients and the community we serve. It’s our goal to improve access to care, services and wellness through the availability of more options. Protecting and expanding the range of services available in the region is a driving imperative behind the exploration of potential partnership. Our focus on patient care, quality and safety does not change during this process.
How would this impact cost of care?
Advancing the value of care NHRMC provides by lowering costs while improving quality is an important priority for NHRMC. The health system is actively working to offer more affordable care options, driving clinical excellence by reducing variation, and implementing programs to help keep people well. If the county decides to move forward with soliciting bids from potential partners, they will be evaluated on their ability to advance these efforts to reduce the overall cost of care for the people of this region.
How would this impact whether I could continue to see my provider?
The relationship providers have with their patients helps support ongoing care and wellness. We value those relationships and would expect any potential partner to support the maintenance and growth of the provider community here. We want area residents to always have access to great care from physicians they trust.
What would this mean for NHRMC’s affiliation with Pender Memorial Hospital?
NHRMC has extended our partnership with Pender Memorial Hospital for two more years. The staff of Pender Memorial and the services they provide are extremely important to the community and we value this important partnership.
What would this mean for the NHRMC Physician Group?
The practices that are part of the Physician Group are important to managing care and the health of our patients inside and outside the hospital. They work throughout the region to provide easier access to primary and specialty care. Our goal to maintain, support and grow the NHRMC Physician Group is a major consideration when considering a potential partner.
How would this affect care for those who need charity care?
If this process moves forward, potential partners will be required to speak to their charity care policies and how they support those most in need. NHRMC and County Commissioner would look for partners who share our commitment to helping all patients, regardless of ability to pay.
Who would decide how the proceeds of a sale would be used?
As a county-owned asset, proceeds from the sale of NHRMC would go to New Hanover County and commissioners would have authority to commit funds. As we move through this process, NHRMC and county leaders would like the community engaged in envisioning how the proceeds could be used to better the overall health and wellness of the community if a sale were to be approved.
How much does the county expect to sell for?
It’s early and we haven’t yet created or distributed the RFP – and certainly haven’t received any proposals from prospective partners that include dollar amounts. We are a successful health system in an attractive market and we anticipate that will be reflected in the financial commitment of a buyer.
What would the county do with the money?
As a county-owned asset, proceeds from the sale of NHRMC would remain here in New Hanover County and could be used to make a substantial investment in bettering the overall health, wellness and quality of life in our community.
What would happen to local vendors and existing contracts?
Nothing is changing today. We take seriously our responsibility as a major employer and economic driver for our region and recognize the important role of our vendors as we work to provide our patients with exceptional care. The County Commissioners are moving forward with a process to determine what’s in the best interest for our entire community, and that includes our local vendors.
Would NHRMC close?
No. NHRMC, through its strategic plan, is working toward a vision of the region serving as a model for health and wellness, with all residents having convenient access to affordable care that’s equitable and customized to their unique needs and preferences.
How long will this take?
If the process moves forward, it may take many months or longer. During this time, our County Commissioners, with the input of NHRMC’s board and senior leadership and a team of healthcare and legal advisors, will be working diligently together to chart the best course forward for our health system.
How can I stay updated or learn more?
We’ll be open and transparent through this process and share updates with our patients, employees, providers and community as they become available. We encourage you to visit www.NHRMCfuture.org to learn more about the process, see answers to frequently asked questions and stay informed along the way.
How can I share my opinion?
Throughout the coming months, we’ll be offering forums for members of our community to learn more about our vision for health and wellness in the community and share what is most important to them. These conversations will help shape our priorities and guide our decisions. You may also submit a comment through our newly created website, www.NHRMCfuture.org.
How to Get Involved
How can I get involved?
If you are interested in getting involved in the conversations around the future of NHRMC, we encourage you to do so in a positive way that continues to reflect the values and culture we strive to always project to our community. We want to encourage thoughtful conversation that adds perspective to the discussions and inspires our patients and neighbors, as well as potential employees and providers, to join with us to make better health and wellness a reality.
Social Media Tips
Encourage Learning: If you’re on social media, share links to the website, www.nhrmcfuture.org, to encourage people to learn more.
- Stay Open-Minded: At this point, it may be best to withhold judgement on whether NHRMC should remain county-owned or become part of a larger health system. We won’t know what a larger system could do for us unless we are able to ask the question and receive proposals.
- Talk About What’s Important to You: Love the NHRMC culture? Want to ensure we continue the great work we do? Share that – being open to consider that a new partner could enhance our culture and our work even further.
Reassure community and potential recruits: Help those who are watching know we’re confident in our future, whichever way this goes. Reflect optimism. We won’t advocate for a change if it doesn’t add to our strength and enhance our future work.
- Provide balance: Misinformation, speculation and random claims run rampant on social media sites. When you see them, try to avoid being sucked into a back-and-forth with someone who seems to want to vent more than understand. But do provide your own thoughts in a calm, reassuring, positive way. Let’s make sure our community sees NHRMC staff as everything they want us to be when they come to us for care.
Employees are welcome to come to community forums to share opinions about the future of better healthcare in the region and show support for our pursuit of it. Keep the above tips in mind for these forums, too.
When you make a public comment, either on social media or at a public forum, you are speaking for yourself, and not the organization. But as an employee, you are a representative of NHRMC and what you say can help shape opinions of who we are. We appreciate your help in making that message and image an accurate representation of the wonderful people who are part of this organization.