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The Daily Tar Heel

WakeMed asks for hosptial records

UNC Hospitals’ ?nances requested

This story appeared as part of the 2010 Year In Review issue. The Daily Tar Heel resumes publication Jan. 10.

After reporting high charity care losses for the year, UNC Hospitals has come under fire for the validity of its reports.

WakeMed Health and Hospitals submitted a formal request for financial information and other public records from UNC Hospitals on Nov. 29.

They are requesting UNC Hospitals to stop its “predatory behavior” in partnering with profitable private physicians’ practices across the state.

WakeMed is also calling into question the amount of charity care UNC reports and the role of UNC-owned Rex Hospital in Wake County.

“We don’t know how to talk about what it is they do without knowing what it is,” said William Atkinson, president and CEO for WakeMed, of Rex. “They operate outside of daylight with this.”

The request comes on the coattails of the announcement that UNC Hospitals is affiliating with Wake Heart and Vascular Associates to expand its specialist network and potentially help make up for charity care expenses.

“Chasing hearts is exceedingly profitable,” Atkinson said.

But UNC Hospitals CEO and Dean of the UNC School of Medicine Bill Roper said in a statement that the Wake Heart partnership and others across the state are just part of a national trend toward consolidation.

Earlier in the semester UNC Hospitals reported they expect to lose about $300 million in charity care expenses — one fifth of the hospital’s total operating expenses — attributing the loss to serving as the state’s social safety net.

UNC Hospitals spokeswoman Karen McCall said in September they were cost-shifting to insured patients to make up for some of the losses.

But really we’re just waiting for health care reform to kick in and insure more patients, she said.

Atkinson also said WakeMed does about 80 percent of the charity care in Wake County — where UNC-owned Rex Hospital is located — without the state support UNC receives.

“Rex Hospital is a very different animal,” Atkinson said.

UNC Hospitals and the health care system nationwide is also facing a shortage of primary care doctors, leaving universities asking how to lure medical school students away from seemingly more lucrative specialist careers to meet the growing demand.

“We make it easier for them to go into primary care with family medicine residency programs,” said Dr. Tom Bacon, the executive associate dean of the medical school and the director for the program.

UNC’s School of Medicine is now working to attract students to pursue careers in primary care as opposed to more prestigious careers in specialized care.

Although 64 percent of the UNC medical school class of 2004 initially entered primary care, the number was reduced by more than half by 2009 to 31 percent.
The expansion of the medical school to campuses in Charlotte and Asheville will allow for a greater push for primary care training.

Contact the State & National Editor at state@dailytarheel.com.

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