Stand down. Work things out.
That’s what Superior Court Judge Allen Baddour ruled on Friday, May 24, granting the University of North Carolina System a 10-day, temporary restraining order against Vidant Health. UNC and Vidant — the hospital system that owns and runs the teaching hospital for East Carolina University’s Brody School of Medicine — are clashing over issues of governance.
The court battle will continue May 29.
UNC took Vidant Health to court May 20 after the nonprofit corporation decided to block the UNC Board of Governors from appointing members to the board of Vidant Medical Center in Greenville.
The move reportedly stunned the BOG. The Vidant board didn’t have legal authority to make such a change, UNC said in its complaint. An affiliation agreement, originally established in 1975, and renewed as recently as 2013, gives the UNC BOG appointment power over nine members of the hospital’s 20-person board.
On April 24, Vidant cut off the BOG from appointing more people to VMC’s board. Under the arrangement, the Pitt County Board of Commissioners would retain privileges to appoint 11 members to the hospital’s board, but Vidant Health would take control over the other nine seats.
VMC receives money from the state university system, so it should be subjected to oversight from UNC, said BOG Chairman Harry Smith.
Vidant stands firm, saying the new appointment structure would allow two ECU leaders to be appointed to the hospital’s board.
“This would further strengthen our great relationship with ECU and ensure they are always at the table as we work together to care for the people of eastern North Carolina,” said Vidant spokesman Jason Lowry.
The court’s restraining order is good until June 3. Until then, Vidant can’t make any changes to VMC’s board.
The restraining order doesn’t affect much, as the hospital board hasn’t made any recent changes or appointments, and members aren’t scheduled to meet again until July, Lowry said.
Under the affiliation agreement, UNC has a role in the governance of its teaching hospital, Baddour said in his ruling.
“This order will allow the parties to pause and evaluate what steps will be needed to preserve the long-standing partnership between ECU and Vidant, so that all parties may better serve the people of North Carolina,” said UNC spokesman Josh Ellis.