Johnston County’s hospital system has narrowed its choice for a partner to three.
Earlier this year, Johnston Health announced its intention to partner with a larger hospital system to bring money and health-care resources to the county. Hospital leaders named UNC, WakeMed, Vidant Health, Duke University Health and Quorum Health Resources as potential suitors.
On Tuesday, Johnston Health announced that Duke and QHR were out of the running, although QHR, a private company, will continue to manage operations at Johnston Health, a taxpayer-owned hospital system.
Johnston Health board chairman Ralph Stewart released a statement saying that UNC, Vidant and WakeMed had made the cut because all three had pledged to allow local control of the hospital system.
“These three organizations met our request that our board be allowed to retain control of the partnership,” Stewart said. “That was important to us.”
In an interview Wednesday, Stewart said Duke had wanted a controlling stake in Johnston Health, which went against one of the board’s basic criteria for a partnership. From the start, the board has been clear that it wants to retain control of Johnston Health, which operates hospitals in Smithfield and Clayton.
“What they sent us back wasn’t agreeable with our offer,” Stewart said. “We wanted a whole, controlling interest.”
Duke Health could not be reached for comment.
Stewart said board members crossed QHR off their list in part because the company didn’t have the financial backing to make an attractive offer. Unlike the other companies in the running, QHR is solely a management company; it does own any of the hospitals it operates. Stewart said that was another strike against the company.
“They’re not in the day-to-day operations like the hospitals around us are,” he said. “They don’t have the same expertise. They’re a fine group, at management.”
Hospital leaders have conducted their search for a partner behind closed doors. This is the first public announcement of progress in the search since the spring, when hospital leaders announced they had narrowed the list of suitors to five.