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WakeMed challenges competition tactics of public health system

Posted November 29, 2010

WakeMed celebrated the opening of Wake County's first children's hospital in May 2010.
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— The WakeMed Board of Directors approved a move Monday to request records from UNC Health Care about how the public system spends money to lure patients and doctors, arguing that it has an unfair advantage in the battle for health care dollars in the Triangle.

“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,” Dr. Bill Atkinson, WakeMed president and chief executive officer, said in a statement.

Later Monday, Atkinson accused UNC of creating imbalance in what should be a free-market system.

In asking for the records, WakeMed's board called UNC Health Care and Rex – both of which are owned and financed by the state of North Carolina – "predatory."  

Atkinson questioned whether UNC Health Care was offering doctors and medical practices incentives to align with it over WakeMed.

"We're seeing lots of examples of movement in cardiac services, in surgery services, in some orthopedic services," he said.

The board asked for financial statements and records of expenditures by UNC Health Care, Rex Healthcare, Rex Physicians LLC and Triangle Physicians Network over the past two years, and for records pertaining to a meeting between WakeMed staff and UNC's Chief of Cardiology Dr. Cam Patterson.

WakeMed alleges that UNC Hospitals and Rex are, in essence, wasting taxpayer money in a time of belt-tightening.

“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," Atkinson said.

WakeMed also argues that Rex is not treating a fair share of indigent patients. "WakeMed continues to care for the vast majority of the uninsured and medically underserved in Wake County," the hospital's announcement of the filing concluded.

In response to the charges, UNC Health Care released the text of a speech made by CEO Dr. Bill Roper to the Wake County Medical Society earlier this month.

In it, Roper said, "There is a national trend toward consolidation. We believe academic institutions, local health care providers and physician groups will work even more closely together in the future, as we together face pressure to serve patients better and more cost-effectively."

Karen McCall, UNC Health Care vice president of Public Affairs and Marketing, issued a statement saying, "I can confirm that we have received the records request and we are reviewing it. We are committed as always to complying with the obligations of the North Carolina Public Records Law.”

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  • mariaeastnc Nov 30, 2010

    WakeMed saved my mother's life around 10 years ago after a massive heart attack and they have taken great care of many of my family members over the years. The children's emergency area has cared for many of my nieces and nephews and my sister had her baby there a few years ago. In all cases, the care was top-notch and I appreciate having this type of care available right here in our county. If UNC is trying to threaten our ability to get this type of care here in Raleigh, WakeMed should be doing everything they can to prevent it.

  • dravery1 Nov 30, 2010

    Tiggyblushes - Rex is a PRIVATE not-for-profit healthcare facility which is a member of the UNC health system.
    The state doesn't run Rex. Also By law, no hospital can turn away patients regardless of pay or insurance. Please get your facts straight..The fact is, Rex and UNC have been approved by the state and the CON committee to build these facilities. You cant just go out and build a facility without approval from the State and the CON committee. "Dr" Bill has blamed everyone for his demise. Maybe the board and himself need to look no further than their mirror when placing blame. Doctors for the most part can go and come to any facility of their choosing.

  • rgt01562000 Nov 30, 2010

    I guess that why Wake Med charges $ 11,408.35 to have out patient surgery for the removal of a gallbadder.
    How can regular folks afford to pay the copay for such a bill like this... We will go to Rex the next time, they will work with people.

  • thocutt1 Nov 30, 2010

    If Wake is so concerned about the indigent patients they serve, maybe they should pick up that nice hospital and its new additions and move eslewhere. That might help with your issues.
    I have not ever been in the emergency room there that it has not been filled with East Raleigh vagrants, which cause you to sit there for hours on end to be treated. I have always gone to Rex and will continue too.

  • FuckYouWRAL Nov 30, 2010

    The building in the picture used in this story looks familiar..oh yeah, it's the brand new Children's Tower in Raleigh...now what was that about not getting their share of money...?

  • hralex Nov 30, 2010

    I'd pick wake med over UNC anyday, except for burns. . then I'll reconsider.

  • eyeswideshut Nov 30, 2010

    As for UNC/Rex duplicating existing services...I seem to remember there already being 2 level 1 trauma centers/life flight in the area...WakeMed becoming level 1 would be 'duplicating existing services' now wouldn't it?

    And if you want to get down to basics...Rex opened in 1894 and UNC opened in 1952. WakeMed didn't open until 1961 so technically...WakeMed is 'duplicating' all of the services they provide...they were here last.

    If you were the coach of a football team that was on a winning streak...would you tell your team to 'purposely lose' until the otehr teams in the league could catch up? Ummm no...so I don't think UNC should stop expanding because it's effecting WakeMed.

    If UNC waited for WakeMed to catch up...they would never grow...UNC will always be superior to WakeMed. Suck it up.

  • dlnorri Nov 30, 2010

    go back and read the law. Wake Med is still owned by the citizens of wake county, for some stupid reasons (someone got paid a lot of back room money) it is now allowed to operate as a private or charter facility (will have to go back and read teh words on the documents that allowed the change). Wake Med "private hospital" which recieved a free paid for facility form the county to run, and I am sure still has some line items in the county budget, has an obligation as to serve/treat the people of wake county (IE Indegent care). I am certain Rex and Raleigh Community (UNC and Duke) are operating the facities as independent non-profit organizations, and I am certain they can cover thier shenannigans up with paper trail, just like the greedy crooks that moved wake med into the 'private enterprise' column.

  • eyeswideshut Nov 30, 2010

    duplicating services...DUH!! Healthcare is not a monopoly. People should have options in their medical care. Not letting other healthcare centers offer services that WakeMed is already offering is like banning Burger King in Raleigh because McDonalds is already serving burgers and fries.

    Doctors are teaming with UNC/Rex because they are more 'user-friendly' in regards to outside physicians. Also, being a teaching hospital, burn center, cancer hospital, transplant center, etc..they offer more services. And if the pt will need extensive care in several areas, why not go ahead and refer them to the hospital that can do it all instead of referring them to WakeMed for cardiac problems when they will probably need a heart transplant in the long run and will have to eventually be referred to UNC?

    UNC is expanding into other communities because they have patients in those areas. They are trying to provide care closer to the patients' homes...shame on them!!!!

  • Tiggyblushes Nov 30, 2010

    I think all reader should keep to the FACTS. Facts is what is true but your opinion is just your opinion. I know for a FACT even today WakeMed recieve patient and phone call from potential patient stating REX has referred them to WakeMed for patient states they have no insurance/Medicaid. The patient was told that WakeMed handle all indigent care. REALLY? I believe investigation should be done into UNC and REX .

    REX has had MANY years of their questionable actions but all you have to do is research the web to find them. Knowing the Facts will help reader understand the WHOLE picture.

    WakeMed Hospitals have NEVER turn away care for patient. The little tax credit they do get goes right back into the community.

    WakeMed is NOT owned by the state, like UNC and Rex , so what is Rex doing with the tax payer money? North Carolina Resident you have the right know what the government is doing with your money.

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