News: CJ Exclusives

UNC, Vidant Health reach agreement after battle over board appointments

Vidant Medical Center in Greenville (WikiCommons image)
Vidant Medical Center in Greenville (WikiCommons image)

The University of North Carolina System and Vidant Health —  the eight-hospital system that holds a close relationship with East Carolina University’s Brody School of Medicine — have settled a months-long turf war. 

UNC sued Vidant on 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 — a privilege the board has held since 1975. The move stunned the BOG. Vidant didn’t have legal authority to make such a change, and didn’t tell the BOG before changing the rules, UNC said.

The two entities, alongside Pitt County’s government, announced an agreement Wednesday, Oct. 9. The terms follow: 

  • The Dean of the Brody School of Medicine and the Chancellor of East Carolina University will fill two of nine seats appointed by the UNC Board of Governors
  • Trustees for the remaining seven seats will be nominated by a Vidant Medical Center Board of Trustees nominating committee for approval by the Board of Governors
  •  The Chief Executive Officer for Vidant Health will serve as an official, designated liaison to the East Carolina University Board of Trustees Health Sciences Committee
  • The Brody School of Medicine and Vidant Medical Center will jointly engage a financial consultant to assess the current financial relationship between the entities

“We are pleased that this agreement honors the long-standing partnership between Vidant, Pitt County and East Carolina University,” BOG Chair Randy Ramsey said. “ECU’s Brody School of Medicine and Vidant Medical Center play an important and vital role in ensuring quality health care for eastern North Carolina and future generations of medical professionals for all of North Carolina.” 

VMC serves as ECU’s academic teaching hospital. In 1975, the UNC BOG and ECU made an affiliation agreement with Pitt County Memorial Hospital.

In 1998, PCMH changed from a public hospital to a private, nonprofit hospital and was renamed Vidant Medical Center. The agreement between UNC, ECU, and the hospital remained in effect. As part of that agreement, renewed in 2013, the UNC BOG had appointment power over nine members of the hospital’s 20-person board.

On April 24, Vidant stripped the BOG of all appointment power. The amendments instead let the hospital’s board appoint the other nine trustees from a list provided by Vidant Health. 

New articles of incorporation showed the Pitt County Board of Commissioners — which voted with Vidant to block BOG appointments — would retain privileges to appoint 11 members to the hospital’s board. 

The disagreement came under the leadership of former BOG Chairman Harry Smith, who was at odds with former ECU Chancellor Cecil Staton. Staton, under scrutiny from Smith, resigned in March, saying “there are some storms you cannot weather.” The former chancellor said the decision to leave ECU wasn’t voluntary. Notably, Vidant CEO Michael Waldrum was one of 128 Greenville leaders who signed a public letter of support for Staton in January, months after reliable sources told CJ that Staton was being forced from his position.

Smith resigned his leadership post Oct. 1. He remains on the UNC board. 

“There is nothing more important than the people we collectively serve throughout eastern North Carolina,” said Waldrum. “Everyone involved understands the unique challenges facing our rural communities. A strong partnership is vital as we work together to support and train the next generations of medical professionals and to deliver high quality care close to home.”