WakeMed Files Records Requests of UNC Health Care: WakeMed requests records to determine if UNC Health Care is using public money to unnecessarily duplicate and shift services
RALEIGH, N.C. (November 29, 2010) – WakeMed Health & Hospitals today filed a request with UNC Health Care for public records to determine if public money has been used by UNC Hospitals or Rex Healthcare, both of which are owned by the state of North Carolina, in order to unnecessarily duplicate and shift services and gain an unfair competitive advantage over WakeMed, other hospitals, and physician practices throughout the community. The decision to make the public records request was unanimously approved by the WakeMed Board of Directors.
“WakeMed made the request due to numerous recent transactions by UNC Health Care which have raised serious public-policy questions,” said Dr. Bill Atkinson, president and CEO, WakeMed. “Specifically, the records request is to determine if UNC Health Care and Rex Healthcare are improperly using taxpayer dollars to compete with WakeMed and other health care institutions by investing in physician practices and other facilities.”
UNC Health Care and Rex have recently taken predatory actions in Wake County, including efforts to recruit doctors away from existing relationships with WakeMed that could jeopardize WakeMed’s mission of providing care for all.
“We believe that leaders of our state – including the General Assembly, the Governor and the leadership of the University system and UNC Health Care – need to carefully consider whether public money should be used to compete with a strong system like WakeMed, which plays a critical role in providing vital health-care services to Wake County and the entire state,” Dr. Atkinson said. “While competition is healthy, these recent actions are not enhancing access or adding new physicians to meet demand, but are instead shifting and duplicating existing services, which is not good for the community.”
These moves by UNC and Rex appear to be financed with public money at a time when the state of North Carolina is considering drastic steps to balance the budget, including teacher layoffs, the closing of state parks, eliminating 2,000 positions from the University of North Carolina System and cuts in health care. UNC President Erskine Bowles has even suggested that the system may be forced to close one of the 16 UNC campuses.
Attorney Hugh Stevens, who is managing the public records request for WakeMed, sent the request to Leslie Strohm, vice chancellor and general counsel at the University of North Carolina seeking the following information:
“All records constituting or reflecting correspondence or communications, other than correspondence or communications relating to identifiable patients” between UNC Health Care, Rex Healthcare, certain officials at UNC Health Care and subsidiary organizations with members of WakeMed’s medical staff
“Audited financial statements” for UNC Health Care, Rex Healthcare, Rex Physicians LLC and Triangle Physicians Network
“All records made or received by Dr. Cam Patterson in preparation for or in connection with any meeting in which he met with one or more members of the WakeMed medical staff since January 1, 2010.” (Patterson is chief of cardiology and physician-in-chief of the UNC Center for Heart and Vascular Care.)
“All records reflecting the amounts and purposes of all expenditures of public funds by or on behalf of Triangle Physicians Network, LLC or Rex Physicians, LLC since January 1, 2009.”
Records, including 990 IRS forms filed by the named organizations.
Pursuant to North Carolina Public Records Law, WakeMed has requested the records be provided as promptly as possible.
One purpose of the request is to determine the legal status of Rex Healthcare. Rex often is described as a private institution, although it is owned by UNC. Of particular concern is the fact that Rex has been consistently one of the lowest providers of charity care in the state and does not provide its fair share of indigent care. WakeMed has historically provided more than 80 percent of all charity care in Wake County.
WakeMed continues to care for the vast majority of the uninsured and medically underserved in Wake County. It receives no state or county funding other than the limited payments for services received from government-funded Medicare and Medicaid programs. On the dawn of its 50th anniversary in 2011, WakeMed is today in its strongest economic position in the system’s history.
About WakeMed Health & Hospitals
WakeMed Health & Hospitals is a private, not-for-profit health care organization based in Raleigh, N.C. The 870-bed system comprises a network of health care facilities throughout Wake and Johnston Counties. Centers of excellence include cardiac and vascular care, women’s and children’s services, physical rehab, emergency and trauma, orthopedics, neurosciences, home care and numerous wellness and community outreach programs. WakeMed’s team of 7,750 employees, 1,000 volunteers and more than 1,000 affiliated physicians serve the residents of North Carolina using the most advanced technologies to ensure the finest in health care.