What We Have Heard From Wake County

In recent weeks, we’ve posted excerpts on this blog (here and here) from comments the UNC Health Care Board of Directors received from Wake County’s citizens about WakeMed’s proposal to purchase Rex Healthcare. Since those blog entries were posted, we’ve received some questions about whether or not they provide a representative sample. The short answer to that question is yes, but to help our blog readers better understand what we have heard from the community, we are posting all of the portal comments we’ve received – more than 1,300 – here.

All names and personal information have been redacted to protect the privacy of the people who spoke out. We also have redacted comments that were considered inflammatory. We still want to know what the people of Wake County think about the partnership between UNC Health Care and Rex Healthcare, so please take a moment to share your views here.

Providing Care for North Carolina’s Patients

The following communication was sent to North Carolina’s state representatives this afternoon:

While health care boosts the physical and economic health of our state, many North Carolinians cannot afford the health care they need. That is why every hospital affiliated with the UNC Health Care System offers care to every single patient that enters our doors, regardless of their ability to pay.

In total, UNC provides approximately $2 billion yearly in direct patient care. A growing portion of that care – more than 15 percent – is uncompensated care.

Uncompensated care is part of our public responsibility and our state-mandated mission to provide care for North Carolinians. As health-care costs have grown, so has hospitals’ responsibility to offer care to patients who need it, regardless of their ability to pay.

The UNC Health Care System was created to serve North Carolina’s health care needs. Today, we employ more than 12,000 people and treat patients from all 100 counties. Our work through the Area Health Education Centers helps bring care to rural and underserved areas, and our partnerships with other providers increase access to care for patients all across our state.

Over the past four years, UNC’s uncompensated care has grown by approximately 14 percent each year. The UNC Health Care System, including Rex, provides more than $300 million in uncompensated care – more than any other health system in the state. At Rex, inpatient Medicaid and uninsured cases have doubled in recent years.

What started 60 years ago as one hospital and a medical school is now an integrated and collaborative health system of physicians, hospitals, nurses, researchers, teachers and students. UNC Health Care is recognized as a national a leader in teaching, research and state-of-the-art care, but our most important work is offering excellent care to all our patients.

Setting the Record Straight

In recent interviews, officials at WakeMed have spread inaccurate information about new heart health services that will soon be available at Rex Healthcare’s main campus.

The Cardiovascular Center of Excellence, which won approval from state regulators in late September, will consolidate and streamline services that Rex has offered its patients for years. It is necessary to help Rex meet the growing demand for these services. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in North Carolina, and Wake County’s population is aging and growing. North Carolina’s state regulators, and Rex Healthcare, have determined that more services should be available in Wake County to meet this growing patient need.

What’s more, these WakeMed officials continue to misrepresent the facts surrounding UNC Health Care System’s relationships with physicians. To be clear, Rex Healthcare has never received any taxpayer funds. UNC Health Care and Rex Healthcare have successfully affiliated with many of the top physician practice groups in the Triangle – a success we believe is a direct result of the way we work with doctors and a shared vision for the future of patient care in Wake County.

Additionally, despite their charges to the contrary, it is important to remember that WakeMed is not a private hospital in the traditional sense. WakeMed was founded as a county hospital and owned by Wake County. It was transferred from Wake County, at no cost, to a non-profit corporation and assumed an obligation to provide charity care for Wake County citizens. When this transaction was made, Wake County retained the right to appoint the majority (8-14) of the WakeMed Board of Directors. WakeMed is still under government oversight.

Care Regardless of Ability to Pay

In recent months, the UNC Health Care System, including Rex Healthcare, has received criticism about the amount uncompensated care we provide in Wake County. (Uncompensated care is the cost of care for which we are not paid). We are proud of our commitment to treat every patient who enters our doors, regardless of their ability to pay – so we’d like to address this criticism head on.

UNC Health Care System providers delivered more than $300 million in uncompensated care last year. Much of that care was delivered to patients in Wake County. We don’t just deliver care to Wake County patients at UNC Hospitals in Chapel Hill, Rex Healthcare in Raleigh, or our affiliated physician practice groups throughout the Triangle. The UNC School of Medicine also employs more than 30 faculty members and 55 residents who practice full time at WakeMed.

Those UNC School of Medicine residents and faculty provide much of the uncompensated care that is delivered at WakeMed – particularly in OB/GYN. By our calculations, the value we provide to WakeMed well exceeds $20 million annually.

The UNC Health Care System provides uncompensated care to patients from across the state. Our most recent data shows that our care is almost double what is provided by WakeMed. We are proud of our role as the state’s health system and will continue to provide our excellent standard of care to any North Carolinian who needs our services, regardless of their ability to pay.

UNC and Rex: Excellence in Nursing

Nurses from UNC Health Care and Rex Healthcare know how to work together.

Both hospitals were represented among the more than 7,500 attendees at the American Nurses Credentialing Center’s 2011 National Magnet Conference.

The event was held Oct. 4-6 in Baltimore for hospitals that receive the prestigious Magnet designation, which recognizes the best nursing practices worldwide. Attendees also shared their best practices and discussed new strategies for improving patient care.

UNC and Rex employees at the ANCC 2011 National Magnet Conference

Among Triangle hospitals this year, Rex and Duke University Hospital were recognized as redesignated organizations. UNC Hospitals received its initial magnet designation.