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ECU leaders release statement on conflict between Vidant and UNC System

The saga of Vidant Health vs. the UNC System continues this week, with both sides in court directed mediation to resolve the dispute over whether members of the UNC Board of Governors will continue to appoint members to the board of the eight hospital system.

UNC System Interim President Bill Roper declined to answer questions on the matter last week as he visited the N.C. General Assembly, where $35 million in Medicaid reimbursement money for Vidant’s hospital in Greenville was left out the state budget passed by the Senate.

On Monday Dan Gerlach, interim chancellor of ECU and Dr. Mark Stacy, Dean of the Brody School of Medicine (whose home is in Vidant’s Greenville hospital) released a joint statement on the dispute.

Below, the statement in full from the two leaders who have, to this point, remained pretty quiet on the unfolding conflict:

To the ECU Community:

As leaders of East Carolina University and the Brody School of Medicine, we have been asked repeatedly for our position on Vidant Health’s efforts to change how the Vidant Medical Center Board is selected, and the consequences of their decision. We have preferred to work quietly and quickly to resolve differences, but it is now time to state our views.

The plain fact is that Vidant Health and Pitt County acted behind closed doors to change how appointments are made to the Vidant Medical Center Board. No one at ECU/Brody was consulted or agreed to this change. This action violated the affiliation agreement that ECU and Brody have with Vidant and Pitt County. Their action broke an agreement that has been in place, in some form, for decades. We at ECU made the decision to protect our interests and engaged legal counsel to defend the agreement.

Although we work closely together, Vidant and Brody are NOT the same entity. Vidant is an independent corporation with its own goals and motives. Its legal agreement with ECU and the University of North Carolina System has given Vidant access to benefits such as supplemental Medicaid payments, crucial payments Vidant has now put at risk through this unilateral action. ECU is one of the 17 constituent institutions of the UNC System, which is why the system and its Board of Governors are involved. Neither UNC-Chapel Hill nor UNC Health Care are part of this dispute.

We want those Medicaid payments to stay in place. The fastest way for that to happen is for Vidant and Pitt County to reverse their changes to the Board structure to comply with the affiliation agreement. It is entirely in their control and would ease concern of our communities and save time and money. We cannot afford further distraction or delay.

This is a fight that ECU did not know about, start, invite or need. The court has directed meditation, the best way to handle concerns, and we are working with the parties to complete that process as soon as possible. ECU has some issues that we want to address with our partners as well, in order to strengthen the long-term sustainability of the Brody school and its mission to serve the health care needs of the state and the region as we have for over 40 years.

Finally, there’s been a lot of discussion from other parties about what is good for ECU. We assure you that we are plenty capable of speaking for ourselves and our interests, and we will do so vigorously.

Dan Gerlach
Interim Chancellor

Mark Stacy, MD
Vice Chancellor for Health Sciences
Dean, Brody School of Medicine

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