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Vidant proposes settlement

By JAZMINE BUNCH

RCNH News Intern

GREENVILLE – A settlement agreement was submitted Monday by Vidant Medical Center (VMC) and Pitt County leaders following the N.C. Senate’s budget proposal to reduce $35 million in funding to the Vidant hospital system.

The settlement agreement proposes that the State budget must include $28 million in funding for a new building for the Brody School of Medicine, and it calls for the removal of the $35 million penalty for VMC in the state budget.

The budget cut is believed to be the Senate’s response to the Pitt County Board of Commissioners’ decision to eliminate the UNC Board of Governors’ VMC board appointing power.

Without any board members from the UNC system, the State Senate decided that the Greenville based hospital system should receive the same treatment as any other private hospital under the state Medicaid plan.

In a statement from the Eastern North Carolina House Democrats, the representatives voiced their dissent with the Senate’s decision.

“We oppose political attacks on Eastern North Carolina and our people,” the statement said. “We issue this statement to state our public opposition to this attack on Eastern North Carolina and to encourage citizens, businesses, and health care professionals to contact their state senators to urge them to reconsider.”

Howard Hunter III of Ahoskie, the 5th District Representative in the NC House, told the R-C News-Herald that the new budget proposed by the House included $28 million for the Brody School of Medicine.

The multi-million dollar cut under consideration by the Senate would have a significant impact on the services that Vidant provides in Eastern North Carolina, including Greenville and the Roanoke-Chowan area.

Local Vidant hospitals in Ahoskie and Windsor would face devastating consequences from this penalty in addition to a proposed $38 million cut resulting from changes to the State Health Plan.

“I am concerned what $73 million in cuts out of Raleigh will mean for the people of this community and all of eastern North Carolina,” said Judy Bruno, President of Vidant Roanoke-Chowan Hospital in Ahoskie. “These cuts have consequences for all of us to include our most vulnerable. We are asking the community to reach out to their elected representatives and tell them not to hurt Eastern North Carolina.”

Additionally, the proposed settlement would call for restructuring of the VMC board. The new agreement would allow Pitt County to continue to appoint 11 members, while reducing the UNC BOG’s power to appoint only four members.

The rest of the board would comprise of two members appointed by the VMC Board and two ECU physicians appointed by a special committee to be chaired by the Dean of the Brody School of Medicine, who will also serve as a member on the board.

Current members of the VMC board would complete their terms and all legal action would be dismissed if the settlement is approved by the state.

VMC is open to changes to board structure and they are pushing for members who “understand the issues of the region.” Regardless of whether an agreement is reached, Pitt County and VMC agree that the $35 million penalty in the state budget should be removed immediately.

If enacted, the members of the newly restructured board are expected to meet to discuss actions including naming rights for VMC, equal pay for ECU and UNC faculty, and change of control protection for the UNC BOG among other immediate issues.