Representative Kandie Smith sent a letter to Speaker of the House Tim Moore urging his support of eastern North Carolina and Vidant Medical Center as budget negotiations get underway.
Vidant Medical Center is facing possible budget cuts that they say impede their mission to improve the health and well-being of eastern North Carolina.
On Tuesday, the Senate’s proposed budget included language to eliminate Vidant’s ability to be reimbursed as the primary affiliated teaching hospital for the Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University.
The change would result in a $35 million annual cut to Vidant’s bottom line that would go into effect on July 1, halting preferential Medicaid Treatment to Vidant as East Carolina University’s teaching hospital.
The budget provision would end a favored status to Vidant, cutting reimbursements by $35 million.
“It will affect our ability to provide compassionate, patient-centered care and community investment that this region both deserves and depends on,” Dr. Shirley Carraway of Vidant Health said.
Republican Sen. Ralph Hilse said Vidant should not receive the benefit because it acted to keep the University of North Carolina Board of Governors out of hospital affairs.
Vidant and Pitt County Commissioners in April removed the UNC Board from choosing nine of the 20 hospital board members.
Vidant CEO Dr. Michael Waldrum defended the decision to change the structure of the board in a press conference Wednesday.
“It comes down to a simple reality the best governance structure it is that knows the company the best to determine who the board members should be instead of a group of people who have never even been to ENC much less understand the issues that we face,” Vidant CEO Dr. Michael Waldrum said.
Waldrum said all the current board members have a significant connection to eastern North Carolina.
“We have self-imposed putting two leaders from ECU on our board, so the idea that we want to do anything to hurt Brody is disproved by the fact that we want the leadership of ECU on our boardroom to help us make the best decisions for eastern North Carolina.”
While the UNC Board and ECU sued to try to block the change, Waldrum said all parties agreed to a mediation process.
“That is another thing we don’t understand considering the cuts were put into the Senate budget, but at the same time, our legal teams agreed to a process to resolve those issues,” Waldrum said.
Democratic Sen. Don Davis of Pitt County said Vidant still deserves Medicaid preference because it serves a disproportionate number of Medicaid patients.
Waldrum said Vidant remains committed to ECU and the Brody School of Medicine regardless of the budget outcome.
“We have and will continue to meet the challenges that face this beautiful region and the rapidly changing healthcare environment,” said Waldrum.
He said he continues more challenges in healthcare moving forward in what he calls ‘one of the most difficult healthcare environments in the United States.’
“In this coming year, North Carolina is going through some of the most significant changes that it has ever had in healthcare,” Dr. Waldrum said. “We will do what we always do, and do the best for our communities despite those realities.”
The cut would be in addition to the $38 million cut due to changes in the state health plan taking effect in 2020 totaling more than $70 million in cuts if the budget is passed.
Waldrum said those combined cuts would account for all of Vidant’s bottom line.
Representative Kandie Smith sent a letter expressing the following:
“On behalf of the residents of North Carolina House District 8 and eastern North Carolina, I write you concerning the Senate’s proposed budget cut of more than $35 million from our teaching hospital for East Carolina University Brody School of Medicine,” said Smith. For years, the County of Pitt, Vidant Hospital, East Carolina University, and the University of North Carolina Board of Governors have worked together to provide critical care to one of the most medically underserved communities in our state. Health care services offered here are a lifeline for thousands of people, not just in Pitt County, but throughout the eastern region.
As you can imagine, many people are frustrated and scared of what will happen if we make these cuts in the final budget. I am determined to stand up for the people of my district, region, and state. Please know I will not vote in favor of any budget that includes these cuts and ask you to remove them during budget negotiations. The fate of our local healthcare network is far too important than this dangerous proposal by the Senate. Senate leaders have made it clear that they are willing to put politics over the lives and well-being of countless people in eastern North Carolina. We must stop this.
I ask you to please stand with eastern North Carolina and help us to remove from the budget this egregious provision. Thank you in advance for your support of eastern North Carolina.”