Pender commissioners seek new hospital provider for seat at the table

Pender County commissioners permitted Ascendient consulting agency to navigate its path to securing a brand new healthcare supplier for Pender Medical Middle. (Port Metropolis Every day/Shea Carver)

PENDER COUNTY — Throughout a special-called assembly final Friday, Pender County commissioners unanimously permitted hiring a well being consulting agency to navigate the seek for a potential new supplier at its county-owned hospital.

New info has come to mild as to why they’re on the hunt for different choices. Commissioner chair Jackie Newton instructed Port Metropolis Every day the commissioners needed to be extra concerned in future selections on the county’s well being care.

READ MORE: Pender commissioners reverse course, search outdoors counsel for hospital supplier search

ALSO: Novant out? Pender commissioners seek for various supplier for county hospital

“Novant doesn’t have the chance for Pender County or commissioners to have illustration and a voice on the board to direct how they function,” Newton stated. “That’s regarding.”

Novant Well being operates a roughly 20-member statewide board of trustees, with two members from the coastal area together with Brian Eckel, co-founder of Cape Worry Industrial and Jason Thompson, proprietor of American Property Consultants. It additionally has a neighborhood Novant Well being Coastal Board of Managers, which incorporates 17 trustees, at the least 12 residing within the space and three being physicians.

A spokesperson for Novant stated there aren’t any provisions prohibiting or requiring Pender illustration on both board.

Pender Medical Middle additionally has a separate board, which incorporates appointees from the Pender County Board of Commissioners.

“It’s necessary we accomplice with a managing entity who can be extra receptive to our wants as we go ahead,” Newton stated. “And I don’t see that with the best way Novant is at present structured.”

The present lease settlement with Novant expires July 2023, which was carried over from when it purchased New Hanover Regional Medical Middle in February 2021. Pender County owns the three.7-acre facility at 507 E. Fremont St., although NHRMC has operated the hospital for the final 23 years. Commissioners have been looking for a change in its healthcare supplier for 3 years.

Newton was clear the board just isn’t closing the door shut on Novant fully, solely seeing by means of due diligence to maintain all choices open.

“We’ve got a fiduciary duty to make the easiest resolution for our residents as a result of this can be a resolution that has long-term results and impacts all age teams throughout the board and all socio-economic teams equally,” she stated. “I don’t know why [Novant] is so averse to us taking it to market.”

Based on a presentation Novant NHRMC president Shelbourn Stevens and Pender hospital president Ruth Glaser gave to commissioners in November, NHRMS helped “stabilize” Pender’s rural facility, and has. NHRMC has infused greater than $60 million into Pender well being operations and tripled workers’ salaries.

“Novant is dedicated to Pender County and the hospital and we’re trying ahead to shifting ahead,” Glaser, publicly in favor of sticking with Novant, instructed commissioners in November. “Should you rewind and look again over the past 23 years, these are the issues to anticipate; proceed operations as is, the established order.”

Although commissioners haven’t outright said issues with Novant New Hanover Regional Medical Middle managing Pender Medical Middle, NHRMC has confronted a litany of points over the past yr as a result of employees shortages. A federal report confirmed NHRMC was not sustaining ample employees to fulfill the wants of incoming sufferers arriving by EMS.

Regulators for the Facilities for Medicare and Medicaid Providers discovered NHRMC was in jeopardy of dropping its Medicare contract on June 29, after the dying of an aged girl within the ready room prompted an inspection. CMS discovered points with NHRMC’s high quality evaluation, efficiency enchancment and governing physique. 

Based mostly on employees advice, the board voted unanimously (commissioner Jimmy Tate was absent) to make use of Ascendient to assist in the seek for a brand new supplier.

Ascendient’s proposal supplied a contract vary of $100,000 to $320,000, “relying on phases wanted and milestones met,” in accordance with assistant county supervisor Allen Vann.

He confirmed commissioners have solely permitted part one — costing from $20,000 to $30,000 — with 4 accessible to buy.

The primary will present perception into the present partnership between Novant and Pender Memorial, particularly detailing what’s working, what isn’t, and the county’s priorities and expectations for the long run.

The second part, $10,000 to $15,000, would use the analysis to develop standards for fulfillment. It additionally would consider the professionals and cons of staying with Novant as a healthcare supplier versus looking for one other entity.

If commissioners needed to look additional into different suppliers, it could be lined in part three, costing $20,000 to $25,000. The agency would assess “post-Novant” situations and create a brief checklist of potential companions.

The final and costliest part, $50,000 to $250,000, would end in a brand new settlement for Pender Memorial.

Based on Ascendient’s proposal, phases are “usually fluid and never linear” and should even overlap. 

Newton instructed Port Metropolis Every day commissioners will handle past part one as they go, relying on the quantity of help wanted from Ascendient. 

Nonetheless, “the icing on the cake” was the extra “palpable” value of companies with Ascendient, in accordance with Newton.

In September, the board debated hiring Juniper Advisory to deal with the supplier search, however the charge, $850,000, was some extent of rivalry. Commissioners voted it down 3-2.

Two-thirds of the cash would have been used for Juniper to transition the hospital to a brand new supplier, in accordance with former commissioner and chair David Piepmeyer. The opposite portion would have helped information the commissioners with the identification and collection of potential suppliers.

Commissioners Tate and Fred McCoy stated the value tag was too excessive of a burden on taxpayers. McCoy was the one one to face agency on not wanting to rent an outdoor agency in any respect, slightly deal with the method internally.

Tate additionally most well-liked a extra native agency, as Juniper relies out of Chicago.

Ascendient has its headquarters in Chapel Hill and was based by North Carolina native Daybreak Carter in 1994. It really works with well being programs, physicians, authorities companies, public well being departments and extra to transform wants assessments into particular neighborhood well being plans. Ascendient focuses on figuring out gaps, disparities and strategizing methods to deal with the wants, in accordance with its web site.

Its submitted proposal notes Ascendient makes a speciality of rural healthcare and has labored with “each main well being system within the state.” Its consumer base consists of Wilmington Well being, Atrium Well being, UNC Well being Care and firms from Maine to Florida. 

4 corporations submitted proposals to the county. After employees interviewed all of them, one dropped out, leaving three for consideration.

Workers and commissioners mentioned the proposals and beneficial consultants throughout closed session Friday, Dec. 16, however voted to approve Ascendient in open session.

The agency will start instantly, county supervisor David Andrews stated.

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