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UNC refutes possible Vidant takeover

UNC Health Care in Chapel Hill, N.C., disputed claims it had plans to acquire or partner with Greenville, N.C.-based Vidant Medical Center.

Last week, reports surfaced that the University of North Carolina System was attempting to take over Vidant, its East Carolina University Brody School of Medicine in Greenville, and the ECU Physicians group. A UNC Health Care spokesperson told Becker's Hospital Review in a written statement that the rumors were based on "inaccurate news reports" from leaked consulting firm documents.

"UNC Health Care has no plan, secret or otherwise, to acquire or partner with Vidant Health. Even if there were plans, secrecy would be impossible," the statement reads. "Like all hospital systems, the UNC Health Care System is keenly aware of the rapid consolidation occurring across the country. 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 healthcare market might look like in the future. It was not prepared to evaluate partners or to pursue new partners."

Despite UNC's stance, Vidant said it believes the reports confirm that the university system is trying to acquire it.

The two organizations were also caught in a legal fight after the university sued Vidant over changes made in April to the hospital's board that eliminated nine UNC-appointed members from the 20-person board. A judge granted UNC a 10-day temporary restraining order against Vidant to halt the change.

In another statement to Becker's, UNC said: "The UNC System initiated legal action to enforce the terms of the long-standing affiliation agreement and to protect the Brody School of Medicine. Since the court entered the temporary restraining order, the parties have agreed to mediation, which the UNC System views as the best way to resolve the concerns of all parties and to provide a stable platform for medical education and healthcare in Eastern North Carolina. We are also aware of Vidant's concerns about proposed state budgets currently being considered by the General Assembly. We continue to believe that the best path forward for Vidant, Pitt County and East Carolina University would be to honor the long-standing partnership that has served eastern North Carolina well for more than 40 years and to fully restore the governance structure all parties had agreed to in the affiliation agreement. We look forward to hearing Vidant's concerns, as well as resolving problems that have arisen in the relationship between Vidant and its support of the Brody School of Medicine."

Vidant faces $73 million in state cuts by 2020 under a proposed budget approved by the North Carolina State Senate May 31. Some leaders argued the proposed cuts are in retaliation to changes Vidant made to its governance. Vidant said the cuts would put "healthcare for millions and thousands of jobs at significant risk in 29 counties," according to CBS affiliate WNCT.

More articles on healthcare industry transactions:
UCSF ends talks to deepen ties with Dignity Health
Mass General to acquire second New Hampshire hospital
CHS continues hospital sell-off spree with deal in Texas

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