Wednesday, July 17, 2024

New Bern hospital ends partnership with UNC Health

New Bern-based CarolinaEast Health System is ending its partnership with UNC Health on March 31, less than two years after the groups signed an affiliation agreement.

Several N.C. hospitals have partnered with UNC Health, ECU Health, Atrium Health and other systems in recent years, adopting different types of agreements. Hospital officials say the arrangements help improve health care by sharing best practices and achieving some efficiencies.


The two groups “reached a mutual agreement that it is in our best interests to no longer maintain our affiliation agreement. We thank UNC Health for their support and collaboration through the duration of our partnership,” CarolinaEast CEO Michael Smith said in a press release today.

Michael Smith
Michael Smith

Chapel Hill-based UNC Health wished CarolinaEast “all the best moving forward,” Chief Operating Officer Steve Burriss said in the release.

The systems didn’t explain reasons for the change in strategy. CarolinaEast’s operations and medical claims payments would not be affected, according to the release.

CarolinaEast has remained a separate legal entity under the authority of an 11-member board. It is owned by Craven County and operates as a not-for-profit authority, much like several other N.C. hospital systems.

The hospital is in its 50th year since the opening of 100-bed Craven County Hospital in 1963. CarolinaEast Medical Center now has 350 beds.

Leadership at CarolinaEast shifted last July when Smith succeeded Ray Leggett as CEO. Leggett worked at the hospital for 31 years, including 13 as CEO.

Smith is a New Bern native who worked for accounting firms before joining the system in 2010. He had been vice president of physician practice management.

The system employed about 2,700 people in 2021, ranking behind the Department of Defense as Craven County’s largest employers. It had revenue of $846 million in the June 2021 fiscal year, according to a county annual filing.

UNC Health, which is part of the UNC System, is among the state’s biggest health care systems with 16 hospitals and more than 900 clinics. Revenue topped $5.9 billion in 2021. It has relationships with hospitals in eastern N.C. towns including Goldsboro, Jacksonville, Kinston and Rocky Mount.

Both UNC Health and CarolinaEast compete with Greenville-based ECU Health, which operates in 29 counties in eastern North Carolina.

David Mildenberg
David Mildenberg
David Mildenberg is editor of Business North Carolina. Reach him at

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