In its commitment to increase access to primary and specialty care and create new jobs, Novant Health has pledged $50 million in improvements for Pender Medical Center in Burgaw during the next 10 years.

That’s the good news the Pender County Board of Commissioners shared June 16, after the board voted unanimously to transfer ownership of the hospital to Novant Health. When the transaction is finalized Nov. 7, Pender County will retain a majority of representatives on the hospital’s board of trustees.

The investment is aimed at reducing health care disparities across the rural community by recruiting new doctors and taking other concrete steps to improve access to quality health care.

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Ruth Glaser wears a blouse and black cardigan and smiles at the camera.
Ruth Glaser

Ruth Glaser, president and chief operating officer of Novant Health Pender Medical Center, welcomed the agreement. As president of the hospital since 2010, she was at the helm in 2021 when it became part of Novant Health, with Novant Health managing the county-owned hospital. Two years into this relationship, the trajectory of change has been more positive than she ever would have expected, she said, and Novant Health has proven itself a trusted partner to the community of Burgaw.

“We are fortunate to be in the position to benefit from this strategic investment in our county’s health care,” Glaser said. “We are excited about the success and future of Pender Medical Center and what this means for our patients, our team members and our providers.”

Novant Health team members enjoy the North Carolina Blueberry Festival in Pender County on June 17.

The investment commitments are part of an overall transaction that make Novant Health the owner of Pender Medical Center. Novant Health and Pender County are laying the framework for a priority goal: further developing Pender Medical Center into a community general hospital. Community general hospitals offer a variety of treatment and diagnostic programs, including surgery and non-surgical options. Pender County Board of Commissioners Chair Jackie Newton emphasized the need for this development within the Burgaw community.

“Novant Health’s commitment puts Pender Medical Center on a path to becoming a true community general hospital within five years,” she said. “The Board of Commissioners is united around the goal of securing the best possible future for our hospital and all our citizens.”

The agreement also highlights four additional goals that will be a focus during the next decade:

  • Maintain Pender Medical Center’s status as a critical access hospital, a federal designation given to rural hospitals that that meet specified qualifications.
  • Improve access to primary and specialty health care in Pender County.
  • Recruit specialty care physicians to offer services in Pender County.
  • Improve urgent care and clinical facilities in Pender County.
Five EMS team members stand in matching T-shirts and Novant Health name badges.
Members of Novant Health's emergency medical service team at the North Carolina Blueberry Festival in Pender County on June 17.

The new $50 million agreement is just one demonstration of Novant Health’s intentional work to improve and grow health care access across Southeastern North Carolina. Recently, Novant Health broke ground for a new hospital and medical office building in Scotts Hill, North Carolina, and next summer will be starting a rural medical residency program in Pender County, both important ways to expand and improve access for all.

“We are confident that Novant Health’s investments will achieve the primary goal of improved health care at Pender Medical Center,” Newton said.