Commissioners condemn deal with UHSEC

Published 2:11 am Thursday, July 1, 2010

Staff Writer

A decision by the Beaufort County Medical Center Board of Trustees on Tuesday to have University Health Systems of Eastern Carolina manage the medical center without first knowing the cost of the plan was sharply criticized by the Beaufort County Board of Commissioners just hours after the medical center’s trustees made their decision.
Commissioners Chairman Jerry Langley, who had earlier appealed to county residents to “stop the madness” and “let the process work” as the future of the hospital is decided, had sharp words for the trustees Tuesday night during a meeting of the commissioners.
Langley, usually a voice for restraint in the commissioners’ often-heated debates, said the decision was “straight up evil.” He said the discussion over the future of the hospital appears to have been hijacked by some trustees who have already made up their minds about its future.
“This leaves a bad taste in my mouth,” he said. “The way that they’re playing ball right now, it’s just not right, and I don’t like it.
Commissioner Stan Deatherage echoed Langley’s remarks.
“I’m just incredulous to know that,” he said.
The trustees voted 5-4 Tuesday afternoon to bring in the UHS management team — “as soon as possible,” in the words of trustees Chairman Edwin M. “Sandy Hardy — after the resignation last week of Bill Bedsole, Beaufort Regional Health System’s chief executive officer.
During the trustees’ debate on the matter and in an interview after the meeting, Hardy said that he did not know how much it will cost the hospital to bring in the management team, saying instead that it will be “very reasonable.”
He said that University Health Systems has promised to “bill” the hospital for its services after Beaufort Regional Health System officials complete the process of evaluating proposals from 10 potential suitors for a possible merger.
“This will have no effect on the immediate bottom line,” he said. “They will bill us instead of requiring immediate payment.”
Under additional questioning, Hardy said he did not know how much that bill would be.
Voting for the proposal, in addition to Hardy, were Grace Bonner, Sandy Easley, Jack Piland and Curtis Potter. Voting against the proposal, in addition to Gray, were Hood Richardson, Allen Roberson and Alice Mills Sadler.
County Commissioner Ed Booth expressed concern that contracting with UHS to manage the hospital while UHS is one of the hospital’s potential partners might be a conflict of interest.
In related business, the commissioners voted 5-2 to appoint gynecologist Brenda Peacock to the medical center’s board. Peacock will fill a seat, traditionally held by a doctor, previously held by Dr. Sandy Easley, who resigned from the board. Commissioners Deatherage, Langley, Booth, Robert Cayton and Hood Richardson voted for Peacock. Commissioners Jay McRoy and Al Klemm voted for Deborah Ainsworth.