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UNC Health Care: No secret plan to take over Vidant

Consultant was hired to protect UNC Health Care's interests in a consolidating market, spokeswoman says

UNC Medical Center, Chapel Hill (Image by Yeungb, Wikicommons)
UNC Medical Center, Chapel Hill (Image by Yeungb, Wikicommons)

The University of North Carolina never has pursued a takeover of Vidant Health, despite the hospital system’s claims otherwise, UNC Health Care said May 31.

Those comments follow the drop of a report showing UNC’s study of possible health care mergers and acquisitions that cross state lines. East Carolina University Physicians and Vidant Health are listed, as well as Atrium Health, Georgia’s Emory Healthcare, and Tennessee’s Vanderbilt University Medical Center and Vanderbilt Health Affiliated Network.

UNC spokesman Josh Ellis told Carolina Journal that the report in question was protected by state confidentiality laws, thus mandating it a closed-session item. CJ is seeking a clarification on which statute protected the report.

Studies like this are standard procedure for any health care network trying to stay abreast of their options, said UNC Health Care spokeswoman Lisa Schiller.

“Like all hospital systems, the UNC Health Care System is keenly aware of the rapid consolidation occurring across the country,” Schiller said. “All systems look frequently to consider potential partners. The leaked document was prepared by a consulting firm hired by the UNC Board of Governors to illustrate and educate them on what the consolidating health care market might look like in the future. It was not prepared to evaluate partners or to pursue new partners.”

Schiller also noted any formal move to combine UNC Health Care with Vidant “would require the approval of multiple public entities and boards. It would also require a public bidding process under state law.”

Vidant’s CEO, Mike Waldrum, has in the past talked with UNC System officials and members of the UNC Board of Governors about the possibility of merging with the university, Schiller said, but the system has never pursued a partnership with the eight-hospital system.

“UNC Health has the responsibility, through the North Carolina General Statutes and its mission to offer care to all of the citizens of North Carolina — not one region over another,” Schiller said. “As the rapid pace of health care changes, we wish Vidant Health success as they negotiate this landscape.”  

Carolina Journal reached out to Vidant for a reaction to UNC’s claims and asked if Waldrum had ever proposed a merger with the larger system. Vidant officials didn’t immediately respond.

Vidant is currently locked in a legal battle with UNC over issues of governance. The hospital system, which serves eastern North Carolina and runs the teaching hospital for ECU Brody School of Medicine, in April changed the appointment structure for Vidant Medical Center. The UNC Board of Governors lost its say over nine seats on VMC’s board. No one on the BOG or at ECU was consulted, and the action violated Vidant’s affiliation agreement with ECU, UNC said.

Vidant maintains it has given a real voice to the university by carving out two seats on the board for appointees from ECU.