East Carolina University and the Brody School of Medicine leaders released a statement yesterday regarding their position on Pitt County and Vidant Health’s actions to change the selection process of the Vidant Medical Center Board (VMC) without the University of North Carolina System (UNC) and ECU’s consent.

Pitt County and Vidant filed Articles of Amendment with NC Secretary of State, Elaine F. Marshall, which passed by a unanimous vote of the VMC Board without UNC or ECU’s knowledge or consent.

UNC and ECU then filed a temporary restraining order to prevent Vidant from changing the membership of the VMC Board.

ECU Interim Chancellor Dan Gerlach and Dr. Mark Stacy, dean of the Brody School of Medicine and vice chancellor for health sciences, addressed ECU’s stance on this issue in a statement.

Gerlach and Stacey said the County and Vidant’s actions violated an affliction agreement ECU and Brody have had with Vidant and Pitt County for decades, so ECU took legal action to defend this agreement and protect their interests.

They specified Vidant and Brody are not the same entity, despite working closely together. Vidant is an independent corporation that receives benefits, such as supplemental Medicaid payments, as a result of the legal agreement with ECU and UNC to make it a teaching hospital, which is now being jeopardized because of Vidant’s actions, according to the statement.

The University of Chapel Hill nor UNC Health Care are involved, according to the statement, ECU is one of 17 constituent institutions of the UNC System.

According to the statement by Gerlach and Stacey, ECU wants to see a continuance of the agreement and Medicaid payments, but the decision is “entirely in their (Vidant and Pitt County) control.” They said Vidant’s actions were “a fight that ECU did not know about, start, invite or need.”

Gerlach and Stacey said the court has directed mediation between the parties, and ECU hopes for Vidant and the County to reverse their actions promptly in order to save time, money, ease the concerns of the community and preserve the Brody School’s health care efforts within the state and region.

Vidant Health and Pitt County released statements in response to Gerlach's public statement on his stance about the situation.

Vidant responded to the statement by saying:

"The decision to change the Vidant Medical Center (VMC) board by Pitt County and Vidant was done for the right reasons. We made these changes to protect health care in eastern North Carolina. To be clear, Vidant and Pitt County had the authority to change the VMC board and the appropriate process was followed. The decision was made with unanimous support from Pitt County and every member of the Vidant Health and VMC boards to include those appointed by the UNC Board of Governors. Importantly, the affiliation agreement was not breached and remains intact. Vidant continues to provide support to the Brody School of Medicine at ECU. In addition, the changes to the VMC board strengthens our relationship with ECU by requiring two ECU leaders be included on the VMC board. It is important for Vidant to always have members on its board that understand and care passionately about eastern North Carolina. Our changes to the VMC board and recent proposal guarantees ECU direct influence on the VMC board. This was not the case previously.

As we work to strengthen health care for the communities we collectively serve, there are those in Raleigh that want to divide and dominate health care in eastern North Carolina. They have aggressively moved to cut $35 million in Medicaid payments to Vidant which many agree is a political vendetta. These payments Vidant receives are tied to the affiliation agreement and have nothing to do with board governance. Vidant remains the affiliated teaching hospital for the Brody School of Medicine at ECU. As we've done for decades, Vidant Medical Center will continue its support for Brody as we work together to train the next generation of physicians.

We look forward to continued discussions on how we can strengthen health care in the region."

Pitt County responded to this by saying:

"Pitt County has joined all parties in actively working through mediation, which we expect will provide a path towards resolution of the matter. Pitt County values the longstanding affiliation between the Brody School of Medicine and Vidant Medical Center. The County's consent to the amendment to Vidant's governance was intended to strengthen this relationship, and assure local governance over healthcare in eastern North Carolina. We look forward to a positive result that is beneficial for all Pitt County residents."

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