Legislative leaders have reached a budget agreement that restores planning money for a new ECU medical school building and Medicaid reimbursements to Vidant Medical Center.
N.C. Rep. Greg Murphy, R-Pitt, said the agreement also promises money to build a new medical school structure if Vidant restores the UNC Board of Governors’ ability to appoint members to the hospital board of trustees.
“A good path forward has been laid out,” Murphy said. Other details in the conference budget bill are being finalized and legislators anticipate both chambers of the General Assembly will vote on it next week, he said.
The conference budget bill sets the state’s budget for fiscal years 2019-20 and 2020-21.
Murphy on Saturday confirmed the details of an email written by East Carolina University Chancellor Dan Gerlach and obtained by The Daily Reflector that outlined the deal struck by Speaker of the House Tim Moore and Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger. Murphy serves on the conference committee that is working to resolve differences between the budgets passed by the House and the Senate.
The Senate budget did not include $28 million the House had appropriated over a two-year period to begin planning the construction of a new building to house the Brody School of Medicine.
The Senate budget also stripped Vidant Medical Center of Medicaid reimbursements it receives for serving as the medical school’s teaching hospital; which would cut about $35 million from the hospital’s budget.
The Senate took the action after the hospital’s Board of Trustees and Pitt County Board of Commissioners amended the hospital’s articles of incorporation so the UNC Board of Governors no longer had the authority to appoint members to the hospital board. The governors either have nominated or appointed members to the hospital board since the mid-1970s, when it agreed to serve as the medical school’s teaching hospital.
Murphy said the provision authorizing the Medicaid cut was removed and $15 million for planning the new medical school building was restored.
The proposed bill also has a new provision that allocates money to build the new medical school facility starting in fiscal year 2020-21 and in subsequent years “conditioned upon the existence of and compliance with an affiliation agreement between The University of North Carolina or East Carolina University and the primary affiliated teaching hospital for the Brody School of Medicine.
“The affiliation agreement shall require that at least forty-five percent (45%) of the members of the Board of Trustees of the affiliated teaching hospital be appointed by the Board of Governors of The University of North Carolina,” according to the bill’s language.
Murphy said “it will be up to the lawyers” if the hospital and county commissioners don’t agree to return the appointment power to the Board of Governors.
Murphy said the speaker and president pro tem worked on the arrangement through Friday and into Saturday. It’s a plan that will increase the size of the medical school building and the number of students it accepts which guarantees more family medical doctors will graduate and work in rural eastern North Carolina.
“I am glad this part of the process is over because there has been so much uncertainty,” Murphy said. “We can now put the issue behind us and focus on serving the people of eastern North Carolina.”
Two major hurdles remain. It is believed that Gov. Roy Cooper will veto the budget because it doesn’t contain Medicaid expansion. If the governor does veto the budget, the House will need at least seven Democrats and the Senate will need at least one Democrat to vote to override the veto. That number will increase if any Republicans decide to not support an override vote.