News: Quick Takes

Gerlach: Vidant and Pitt County should reverse course in legal battle over ECU med school

Dan Gerlach, interim chancellor of East Carolina University, at his former office at Golden LEAF Foundation. (CJ photo by Don Carrington)
Dan Gerlach, interim chancellor of East Carolina University, at his former office at Golden LEAF Foundation. (CJ photo by Don Carrington)

In an email to faculty and staff, East Carolina University Interim Chancellor Dan Gerlach and Brody School of Medicine Dean Dr. Mark Stacy urged Vidant Health and Pitt County commissioners to back off in their fight with the UNC System over Brody School of Medicine.

The email, sent Monday, June 10, was clear: The ECU administration had nothing to do with Vidant/Pitt’s plan to remove UNC’s appointment powers to the board of Vidant Medical Center, the Greenville facility which serves as the teaching hospital for Brody.

In April, Vidant Health and the Pitt County Board of Commissioners agreed to change the affiliation agreement between Brody and Vidant Medical Center. The 2013 agreement gave Pitt County control over 11 of the 20 VMC board members; the UNC Board of Governors appointed the rest. Under the agreement revised in April, Vidant Medical Center would appoint the nine members now handled by the UNC BOG from a list of candidates from VMC’s parent company Vidant Health.

The UNC System wasn’t notified before the county’s vote. The university has sued, saying VMC and Pitt County violated the contract.

Gerlach and Stacy said ECU is taking UNC’s side in the legal dispute:

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.

Gerlach and Stacy urged Vidant and Pitt County to reverse course so the Medicaid payments aren’t jeopardized.

“This is a fight that ECU did not know about, start, invite or need. The court has directed mediation, the best way to handle concerns, and we are working with the parties to complete that process as soon as possible,” the email said.