News: Quick Takes

Senate budget passes final vote, debate over ECU med school continues

The N.C. Legislative Building in Raleigh. (CJ photo by Don Carrington)
The N.C. Legislative Building in Raleigh. (CJ photo by Don Carrington)

The N.C. Senate passed its budget plan for the next two years Friday by a 30-16 vote.

But cuts to Medicaid payments for Vidant Health Center in Greenville — the subject of an impassioned appeal Thursday by Democratic Sen. Don Davis of Greene County — remained in the final version of House Bill 966. And Eastern North Carolina Republicans tried to reassure their Democratic colleagues the General Assembly didn’t intend to sever ties between ECU’s Brody School of Medicine and the school’s teaching hospital, Vidant Medical Center.

Davis spoke again Friday to colleagues about the Vidant controversy. He quoted reporting from Thursday in which Senate leader Phil Berger’s office said it was crunching numbers over the cost of building a new teaching hospital for Brody and ending the affiliation with VMC.

“Are you kidding me?” he asked. He cited the battles he and area colleagues have fought to secure funding for Vidant. “Do you now believe we’re just going to magically build a new hospital in Greenville?”

“This is downright evil.”

Davis then cited a Carolina Journal story published Friday morning. It revealed UNC Health Care hired Cain Brothers, an investment banking firm focusing on health care companies, last year to look at opportunities for potential mergers with or acquisitions of other hospital groups. One of the M&A targets is Vidant Health.

“This is the nuclear option,” Davis added.

Sen. Jim Perry, R-Lenoir, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Smith, R-Onslow, tried to reassure Davis that a hostile takeover wasn’t in the works.

The spending plan will return to the House. If the House refuses to agree with the amended budget, a conference committee with members from both chambers will work out differences.

The final budget will go to Gov. Roy Cooper.