In a bid to offer residents of Ashe County more advanced medical care and broader access to specialists, Ashe Memorial Hospital announced last week it is close to signing a new management contract with Novant HealthCare.
AMH Board of Trustees Chairman Jim Gambill confirmed contract negotiations are underway, and said Novant would likely be in place as new AMH management by next fall.
“Nothing is finalized yet,” Gambill said in a July 26 interview. “But we think we should have an agreement hammered out with Novant well before next year.”
Novant is a “not-for-profit integrated group of hospitals and physician practices,” with locations in North Carolina, Virginia, South Carolina, and Georgia, according to its website.
The decision to sign with Novant came as the board of trustees evaluated AMH’s current management company, Quorum Health Resources, whose three-year contract expires next year.
The 18-member board of trustees, elected by AMH stockholders, is tasked with selecting the hospital’s management team on a three-year cycle. Novant was chosen from multiple candidates, including Appalachian Regional Healthcare System that currently oversees Watauga Medical Center.
“From time to time, management contracts expire and are renewed,” said the board in a prepared statement. “After reviewing the management choice for AMH, the board of trustees has selected Novant as the best available. We feel this choice will allow the hospital to not only continue to provide excellent primary care to the citizens but also expand services and move toward being the best primary care anywhere.”
The new contract severs a 31-year relationship with Quorum, according to Gambill, and will also eventually end the employment of current AMH CEO R.D. Williams who has held the top post for 17 years. Williams is a Quorum employee, and will remain at AMH through Aug. 1, 2013.
“R.D. has a non-compete clause, so there wasn’t an option to keep R.D.,” said Gambill. “He’s been there for 17 years as CEO, in a time when most hospital CEO’s only last two-and-a-half years. He’s been great, and he’s had to make some tough calls. We, and the community, will miss him.”
Williams could not immediately be reached for comment.
“The health-care climate is changing,” said Gambill, “but we put our heads together and the trustees agreed Novant was the best fit for us. We think this is going to be a really good decision for Ashe County.”
Novant’s size, and its ability to bring specialists to Ashe County patients, made it the best choice available to the board, according to Gambill. The change will mean AMH patients will be able to receive more specialty services locally that, in the past, meant traveling off the mountain.
“Even though the contract with Novant will become effective next year, we should begin to see some advantages sooner, including specialty services,” said Gambill. “We really just can’t stress strongly enough that Ashe Memorial is not being sold. This (proposed) contract with Novant is simple a change in management.”
AMH is a not-for-profit hospital located in Jefferson that provides medical services for more than 25,000 residents in Ashe County. Established in 1941, AMH became a Critical Access Hospital in 2008, and receives cost-based reimbursement. The facility is licensed for 25 critical access beds and 60 long-term care beds, and includes two general surgeons, seven family practitioners, one general practitioner, one hospitalist, one radiologist, and two emergency medicine physicians.