Hospital completes merger with UNC

Mar. 26, 2013 @ 05:57 PM

High Point Regional Health System announced Tuesday that its merger with UNC Health Care System is complete.
The hospital will become High Point Regional UNC Health Care on April 1. Its new brand and logo were unveiled Tuesday. Signage with the new name will be unveiled at the hospital starting today.
The merger was announced in September 2012, capping off a search by High Point Regional for a “strategic alignment” to secure its long-term financial viability.
High Point Regional had remained independent through its 109-year history, but the general state of the economy, the cost of treating the uninsured, changes in insurance coverage, reductions in Medicaid and Medicare reimbursements and other factors had taken a toll on its finances.
The deal will close at the end of this month. High Point Regional will retain its status as a private nonprofit, and hospital representatives said their goal is to maintain control of local health care decisions.
“UNC Health Care will ensure High Point Regional continues to advance in clinical care and remain competitive, while also positioning us for a strong future,” said Jeffrey S. Miller, president of High Point Regional. “Our mission and legacy of proudly caring for the Triad community for more than a century will be carried forward under UNC Health Care’s guidance, and I am proud of that.”
UNC Health Care is providing $150 million for capital improvements at High Point Regional. The hospital has several projects that have been approved by the state, and Miller said renovations to the third floor operating rooms and catheterization labs will probably be first ones undertaken.
UNC also is allocating $50  million to establish a new community health fund that will award grants supporting health, wellness and prevention initiatives.
The deal will keep High Point Regional’s board of trustees in place. UNC will approve future board members and also will approve the hospital’s budgets and strategic plans.
“Other than that, we think it will be pretty much business as usual,” Miller said.
The hope, he said, is that patients gradually will see “expansion of services, bringing more high-tech capabilities here to our community.”
Miller said if the hospital had stayed independent, it would have had to start reducing services.
“Our board said ‘No way. We have too much of a commitment to this community and this region. We don’t want to do that. We want to grow and stay current,’ and we realized that the only way to do that is move forward with a partner that can help us provide these services,” he said.
The UNC system includes UNC Hospitals in Chapel Hill, Rex Healthcare in Raleigh, Chatham Hospital in Siler City and Pardee Hospital in Hendersonville.
David Strong, chief operating officer of system affiliations for UNC Health Care as well as president of Rex Healthcare, said expanding UNC’s market share into the Triad provides opportunities to lower health care costs.
“We become larger. We will have scale. We’ll be buying not by the box, but by the truckload. That will help us with our expenses,” Strong said.
The merger also means that services and access to clinical trials and research not currently available at High Point Regional can be offered here, he said.
He said he expects High Point to maintain a high degree of autonomy, based on his experience at Rex Hospital after it was acquired.
“In the eight-plus years that I have been there, we’ve never sent a budget forward that hasn’t been approved. We’ve never sent a capital request or change in our board structure that hasn’t been automatically approved,” Strong said. “Local board members appreciate what’s happening in the High Point community much more than somebody sitting in Chapel Hill or Raleigh.”