RALEIGH (May 25, 2023) – There’s a big idea afoot in the NC Senate’s version of the state budget that would create an integrated network of UNC and ECU physicians, rural health clinics across the state and a half-billion-dollar new UNC Children’s Hospital.
In conjunction with the expansion of Medicaid to bring federal dollars to the state for health-care access, UNC System President Peter Hans told the UNC Board of Governors today, “We have a once-in-a-generation window of opportunity to improve the health and well-being of North Carolinians on a grand scale, and we must take it.
“That will mean forging a much closer bond between the University’s two major health systems, encouraging UNC Health and ECU Health to operate in tandem on essential needs for our citizens.”
Hans noted that the Senate budget proposal “with hundreds of millions of dollars, supports our community hospitals and creates rural health clinics in areas UNC Health and ECU Health serve (and where other big health systems are nowhere to be seen).
“Significantly, it also allows both entities to form a clinically integrated network of physicians and advances several regulatory relief measures which recognize the unique public-service mission of the state’s two public hospital systems.”
The Senate’s proposal creates a fund for rural residencies designed to place more doctors in rural areas, raises pay for nursing instructors and pays to expand ECU Medical School’s class size by 40 students a year, Hans said.
The Senate’s capital budget authorizes $945 million in university health-care projects:
- $500 million for a UNC Children’s Hospital, with a particular focus on mental health;
- $50 million for an ECU behavioral health center for adolescents;
- $35 million for an ECU medical examiner’s office;
- $210 million for “NC Care” rural health clinics; and
- $150 million for an “NC Care” hospital.1
“My clear expectation for both institutions, and I dare say this Board’s as well, is that they will use the combination of all these investments to prepare more doctors who stay and practice in North Carolina,” Hans said.
“I have spoken many times about the enormous problems we’re facing with depression and anxiety among our youth, all made worse by a dire lack of acute psychiatric care. With very few good options available currently, we need more places for families to turn when their sons and daughters are in a dangerous level of distress.”
Though much has changed since the University began to take on health care as a core part of its mission in the 1950s, Hans said, “The fundamental need to ensure access to high-quality medical care is as critical as ever.
“This work … will matter to generations of North Carolinians. This is work we’ll remember, and be proud to remember, for a long time to come.”