Pardee Hospital will extend and strengthen its management relationship with the UNC Health Care System and expand its governing board from 12 to 15 members under a new contract.
The Henderson County Board of Commissioners on Wednesday unanimously approved the revised memorandum of understanding after Pardee's Board of Directors endorsed the new arrangement. The new agreement gives UNC and the Pardee Board itself greater power than the Board of Commissioners to appoint Pardee board members, "taking politics out of the process as much as we possibly can," said hospital board chairman Bill Moyer.
Two years after the commissioners and Pardee leaders clashed in a conflict over the direction of the hospital, both bodies made a strong show of unity. The commissioners made the unprecedented move to meet in the hospital lobby to approve the MOU in a unanimous vote, then posed for photos with the Pardee directors and UNC officials and praised the updated agreement as the best way to ensure the longterm viability of the 222-bed facility in a challenging health care environment.
"It still leaves us with the risk of what can happen," said Commissioner Larry Young, who had joined former commissioner Bill O'Connor in opposing Pardee's joint health care campus with Mission Health. "I wanted to go with a full-blown lease (to UNC) but there was no way to do it right now. I wanted to get the risk out of it. This is going to help."
"They've got full control," Young added, referring to UNC. "We're only going to appoint two board members."
The new arrangement actually gives the commissioners three appointments and UNC three. The Pardee board will submit a slate of five that must be approved by the UNC Health System board and the Board of Commissioners. Four ex officio members have been given votes that they did not have before now — the UNC Health Care System president, the Pardee CEO, Pardee's chief of staff and the Board of Commissioners liaison, currently Michael Edney.
The new agreement replaces the original MOA, which Pardee and UNC signed in June of 2011, extending the management agreement from 10 to 25 years and giving UNC "greater direct involvement with Pardee's clinical, business and financial operations," Pardee, UNC and Henderson County said in a joint news release.
The new MOA expands the board by four members, with appointments by the Board of Commissioners and the UNC Health Care System.
The Board of Commissioners met Tuesday night in a closed session to discuss the change and then took the unusual step of reconvening the meeting Wednesday night in the lobby of Pardee Hospital in front of the gift shop.
"We are thrilled with our relationship with Pardee Hospital," UNC Hospitals president Gary L. Park said in a prepared statement. "It is an exceptional organization with strong leadership and strong governance. We are a stronger system because of our relationship with Pardee. I have great respect for the Pardee Board and I applaud the county commissioners for their cooperation and their vision."
UNC Health Care has aggressively expanded its reach across the state by either buying small to medium sized hospitals or entering into management agreements like the one in Hendersonville. UNC Health Care owns Rex Hospital in Raleigh and smaller hospitals High Point, Siler City and Lenoir. It is finishing up an agreement that will enable it to own up to 49 percent of Johnston Memorial Hospital in Smithfield.
County Commission chairman Charlie Messer, noting that his mother-in-law is currently a patient two floors up at the county owned facility, said the agreement was good for the people of Henderson County.
"We are very pleased with the terrific way the Hospital Corporation and UNC Health Care System have worked to make Pardee an even better hospital for this community," he said in a prepared statement. "The cooperative arrangement has been extremely effective and we all look forward to greater cooperation in the future to insure that even in a time of great change in health care, Pardee will remain a viable and valuable institution for the citizens of the county."
UNC takes a stronger guiding hand at a time of higher revenue from in-patient use, outpatient visits, ER visits, urgent care use and Pardee-owned physician practices. Pardee finance committee chairman Bill Smith reported for the sixth straight month that patient census and revenue from the hospital, urgent care clinic and physician owned practices were higher than the previous fiscal year and ahead of budget.