The Daily Tar Heel

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Monday March 20th

BOG member questions legality of UNC Health Care merger

The potential partnership between UNC Health Care and Carolinas HealthCare System has prompted skepticism from a UNC Board of Governors member over the legality of the merge. 

The member, Tom Fetzer, sent an email to UNC system president Margaret Spellings and Board of Governors chairperson Louis Bissette late Thursday expressing concerns about the process by which the BOG was informed of the proposed merger. 

Fetzer referenced a state law, NCGS 116-37 (b) (4), in the email.

"The board of directors (of UNC Health Care) shall keep the Board of Governors fully informed about health care policy and recommend changes necessary to maintain adequate health care delivery, education, and research for improvement of the health of the citizens of North Carolina," the law states. 

Fetzer said in the email that, to his knowledge, no members of the BOG were informed of the merger until a few days before it was made public and this begs the question of whether relevant North Carolina statutes were followed during the period in which the merger was being planned. 

“The BOG makes several appointments to the UNC Health Care Board and our only employee, the president of the UNC system, serves by statute — ostensibly to represent and reflect the interests of the BOG and, as the aforementioned statute requires, to keep the BOG ‘fully informed about health care policy,’” he said in the email. 

The partnership was announced on Aug. 31, 2017. The two systems signed a letter of intent to join their clinical, medical education and research resources. The partnership plans to increase access and affordability, advance clinical care expertise, grow their renowned academic enterprise and contribute to the region’s economic vibrancy, according to a press release from August.

“Carolinas HealthCare System and UNC Health Care will improve access to care in underserved and rural geographies, jointly addressing behavioral health needs, designing new models of care and further developing virtual care platforms,” the press release said.

Fetzer said in the email he has intentionally abstained from participating in or attending BOG meetings, discussions or briefings on the proposed partnership because, as a registered lobbyist for WakeMed Health and Hospitals and for Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina, he represents entities that may be impacted by the merge. 

A response email from BOG Chairman Louis Bisette expressed concerns about Fetzer’s potential conflicts under the North Carolina State Ethics Act. 

“Given the potential seriousness and consequences to you of the ethics issue here, we request that you refrain from engaging in further action related to the UNC Health Care matter until we are able to receive advice from the State Ethics Commission staff or the Commission concerning the nature, scope, and consequences of the conflict that has led you to recuse yourself from official action until now,” the email said.

Bissette and Spellings were unavailable to comment.


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