ECU, Vidant join forces as ECU Health

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A big shift in the Eastern North Carolina health care landscape is coming next year as Vidant Health deepens its ties to the East Carolina University Brody School of Medicine, rebranding much of its operations as “ECU Health.”

ECU’s Board of Trustees announced Friday that it has approved a new joint operating agreement that “will enable the two organizations to more effectively and efficiently address current issues facing the region ­­­­— such as health disparities and care delivery obstacles,” according to a news release.

In 2022, most Vidant operations and ECU Physicians practices will convert to the ECU Health branding, while the Brody School will not have a name change. The move comes as Brody is on the cusp of securing long-awaited state budget funding from the legislature to launch major renovations.

Vidant CEO Michael Waldrum, who has also served as dean of the Brody School since June, will lead the combined entity, which will have a nine-member Joint Operating Committee consisting of leaders from ECU and Vidant. ECU Health won’t take on debt or own real estate under the terms of the deal. 

Waldrum will also get a “Dean’s Discretionary Fund” that’s “to support funding of key strategic and priority initiatives of ECU Health,” although the amount is not specified in the agreement.

The agreement tasks Waldrum with creating “an integrated management structure and team” by next March. By June, he’ll make a plan for shared services between the two entities, which could include consolidating Vidant and ECU’s current operations handling things like legal affairs, regulatory compliance, insurance, purchasing and contracting.

ECU Health will also create a new compensation system for its doctors that will be “at a market-based rate for benchmarked levels of productivity,” the agreement says. 

“Through harmonizing our operations wherever possible and building on our unique expertise in caring for rural and underserved communities, ECU Health will set the standard and be a national model for rural health care delivery,” Waldrum said in the news release.

The agreement still requires approvals from the Vidant Health Board of Directors, Vidant Medical Center Board of Trustees, the Pitt County Board of Commissioners and the UNC System Board of Governors, the latter of which will discuss the issue at its meeting next week. 

Once those parties have signed off, the agreement takes affect in January and is good for 10 years. The agreement includes terms to govern any disputes that arise between ECU and Vidant, which is notable given that Vidant and the UNC System had a legal battle a few years ago over board appointments. 

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