Chatham County Hospital Authority official Art Dana said Wednesday his group is reaching out to Novant Health officials in an effort to revive discussions of a partnership with Memorial Health that abruptly died on Monday.
“We are ready to resume negotiations with Novant wherever they are ready,” said Dana, a retired CPA and the authority’s treasurer. “We are totally open to further discussions.”
But, he said, “We weren’t the ones who shut it down. We’d love to get it done.”
But he candidly conceded that even with the authority’s efforts, he honestly did not know the prospects of success.
Dana’s comments came in a week that started with Novant pulling the plug on what has been a several-year-long effort to team the North Carolina-based nonprofit medical provider with the parent corporation of Memorial University Medical Center.
Dana, who has worked with authority chairman Don Waters in negotiations with Novant, said authority members were “kind of blindsided” by Novant President/CEO Carl S. Armato’s Monday memo terminating negotiations.
Armato said the authority had “indicated its intent to go beyond its historical role and has insisted upon inserting itself into the detailed oversights of Memorial operations.”
That along with a “lack of alignment among the authority, the Memorial board and the other local stakeholders” created an environment that would not result be lead to a successful result, Armato said.
But Dana said communications between Novant and the authority broke down, adding that “when someone doesn’t talk to you about their concerns, you can’t respond to them.”
“We want to do the Novant deal, but we were unwilling to sacrifice the safety net services that we negotiated with Novant,” Dana said, adding that the authority’s lease with Memorial is the only document that will protect those services.
He said authority members have never wavered from their belief that the Novant deal is a good for the community.
“We think it will be good for Memorial,” Dana said. “It would serve the taxpayer of the community. It would serve the region.”
He pointed out that that lease is for 40 years, at least, and will involve several generations of Novant/Memorial management.
“That’s why the lease is so important,” he said.
Memorial Health President/CEO Maggie Gill declined comment Wednesday.
Keeping essential services
Key to the authority’s position has been a requirement that Novant ensure in writing Memorial’s safety net services for the term of the 40 year lease.
Level 1 trauma center
Level 3 Neo-natal ICU at the children’s hospital
Indigent care services
Medical education to the extent it was funded by the government or others
Protection of the repayment of the $163 million Chatham County bonds.
Dana said that when the authority approved a letter of intent from Waters to Novant on April 15 it included the standard that any changes of the neo-natal ICU and trauma services by Novant would require Authority consent which could not be “unreasonably withheld.”
Dana said the draft lease was sent to Novant’s attorney on April 28 and he was under the impression that it “faithfully captured our agreement with Novant, nothing more, nothing less.”
It was not until May 6 when the authority received the first comment from Novant’s attorney “with concerns about the language in one of the documents.”
On Sunday, Memorial Health president/CEO Maggie Gill sent out an email to the Memorial board about concerns of new provisions in the lease, Dana said, adding that he was unaware of any new provisions and offered to deal with them
On Monday, Dana said he reached out to senior Novant officials, informing them that if they perceived new provisions, “they were unintended and we would deal with them.”
“If there’s something that troubles you, let’s talk about it,” Dana said he told Novant.