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ECU-Vidant merger clears hurdle

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Cecil Staton

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The Daily Reflector

Friday, March 3, 2017

The University of North Carolina Board of Governors on Friday approved a motion to move ahead with an effort to merge medical services provided by East Carolina University with similar services provided by Vidant Health, according to a news release from the university.

Meeting in Chapel Hill, the board voted to allow negotiations between Vidant and UNC System President Margaret Spellings, ECU Chancellor Cecil P. Staton and UNC Board of Governors member Scott Lampe, chair of the Budget and Finance Committee. The negotiations will integrate ECU Physicians and Vidant Medical Group, a subsidiary of Vidant Health. ECU Physicians is the clinical practice of the Brody School of Medicine at ECU.

The merger effort, known as Project Unify, has been in preliminary stages for about a year and has involved discussions between administrators at Vidant and Brody. The groups also have held several employee forums on the effort.

Friday’s motion gives authority to Spellings, Staton and Lampe to negotiate subject to authorization and approval by the Committee on Budget and Finance with President Spellings informing the board of the public terms of final agreement.

“Project Unify is in the best interests of Brody, ECU, Greenville, and eastern North Carolina. We would be strengthened by this strategic partnership,” Staton said in Friday’s release from ECU News Services. “Project Unify is an important part of our efforts to secure a strong foundation for Brody’s future.”

Dr. Michael R. Waldrum, chief executive officer of Vidant Health, said, “The approval and authorization to move forward symbolizes a pivotal moment in achieving our shared vision to be the national model for rural health and wellness by creating a premier, trusted academic health care delivery system for the benefit of the people of eastern North Carolina.”

Staton and Waldrum told members of the Greenville Pitt County Chamber of Commerce in January that details and terms of the plan had not been defined, but they hoped to be able to present a plan to the Board of Governors in March. No details of a plan were released on Friday.

Staton said in January that unification of the two institutions’ missions and strengths will improve the quality of health care, operational efficiency, the health care experience for patients, staff and physicians and improve education and research capabilities.

Waldrum said that while the goal is simple to state, it requires a huge amount of coordination and strategy to bring more than 13,000 people and more than 400 doctors together who understand the process and can provide measurable outcomes to assure the planned improvements occur ... at lower costs.

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