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Hospital Bills Vary Around Triangle

Our series on hospitals began today. There's one online element that we couldn't put in the newspaper. Go here to see a hospital bill that shows how charges range all over the place at Triangle hospitals. A day in a cardiac intensive care room can bring a charge of $730,  or $3265, depending on what hospital you're in.  A chest x-ray? Anywhere from $98 to $394.

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Rex and UNC Health Care shake up leadership

Rex Healthcare and UNC Health Care System are making some changes in their senior leadership.

David Strong, president of Rex, has been promoted to chief operating officer of system affiliations at UNC Health Care. He will keep his position at Rex in addition to leading hospital and regional care sites outside of Chapel Hill for UNC Health Care. His responsibilities include partnering with other major health systems and physicians as well as developing and executing care site strategy.

Steve Burriss was promoted to chief operating officer at Rex and will be responsible for all ambulatory care and suburban operations, clinical and support service lines. He has previously worked as vice president of human resources and senior vice president of operations and ambulatory care.

Other changes include:

-Jayne Byrd  promoted to VP of surgical services

-Bob Ricker  promoted to VP of physician services

-Tom Williams promoted to VP of ambulatory services

WakeMed and Rex announce new affiliations with medical practices

WakeMed and Rex Healthcare announced new affiliations with medical groups today.

The Carolina Cardiovascular Surgical Associates is joining WakeMed's Wake Speciality Physicians Network while the Clinton Medical Clinic is joining the Triangle Physician Network, a joint network operated by Rex Healthcare and the UNC Health Care System.

CCSA includes four doctors and is led by W. Charles Helton.

The Clinton Medical Clinic has a staff of more than 65 that serves eastern North Carolina communities in Sampson and other surrounding counties.

Today's announcements are part of a trend of medical practices aligning themselves with large health care systems.

UNC Health Care fires back: Makes public records request of WakeMed

The UNC Health Care System appears to be taking a more aggressive stance in its ongoing dispute with WakeMed over the future of Rex Healthcare.

Last week, the UNC Health Care System, which owns Rex, sent a public records request to WakeMed asking for minutes from Board of Directors meetings, agendas for those meetings and annual financial audits for the hospital system.

UNC wants documents dating back to Jan. 1, 2009.

WakeMed made a public records request of UNC last winter, seeking records such as the university system’s correspondence with Wake County doctors.

This latest request by UNC is further evidence that the dispute between the two hospital systems shows no signs of dissipating.

Medco merger may mean $3 million for UNC Health's Roper

For William Roper, CEO of the UNC Health Care System, the mega-merger of Express Scripts and Medco Health Solutions announced this morning could mean a $3 million payday.

Roper, who has been a Medco board member for nearly four years, will receive cash and Express Scripts stock worth as much as $3 million for Medco shares and options he owns.

But he also may lose his Medco board seat. That's a job that paid him total compensation worth $272,789 last year, according to a Securities and Exchange Commission filing.

Two "independent" Medco directors will join an expanded Express Scripts board when the deal closes, but the companies haven't picked them, said Medco spokesman Lowell Weiner. Medco listed eight independent directors in an April SEC filing, including Roper.

Roper has faced criticism over his board work, and whether UNC Health does enough to disclose potential conflicts of interest and his compensation.

UNC Health and Rex set up joint web site as WakeMed bid looms

The UNC Health Care System, facing an unsolicited and unwanted bid from WakeMed to buy Rex Healthcare, has set up a new web site aimed at providing more information on why UNC Health and Rex are "stronger together."

"This is an opportunity, not to denigrate anyone else, but to provide information about our two systems," said UNC Health spokeswoman Karen McCall. "We've been trying to make sure that people know more about UNC and Rex together."

The site includes a "Myth vs. Fact" section, patients' stories about the care they've received, patients' video testimonials, a message board and more. Most of the "Myths" are related to WakeMed's efforts to build support for its buyout bid.

WakeMed made its $750 million offer to buy rival Raleigh hospital Rex from UNC Health in May. WakeMed has since set up its own web site promoting the offer and why it will improve health care in Wake County.

UNC Health officials, including CEO Bill Roper, have made clear they're not interested in selling Rex. But they did set up a special committee of UNC Health board members to review the proposed acquisition.

The committee is continuing to collect public comments on WakeMed's offer, as part of its review process, through a feedback web site.

On Monday, the committee also outlined some of the factors it's reviewing as it considers WakeMed's proposal:

· An overview of WakeMed's strategic focus and direction;
· The alignment of missions, visions and values between the organizations;
· Whether there is evidence that the proposed acquisition would better serve the community, including lowering the cost of health care in Wake County and across the state;
· Information about the governance, capital planning, and evaluation of cultural fit; and
· Other operational considerations inherent in a complex transaction.

UNC Health gives UNC system $20 million to offset budget cuts

The UNC Health Care System has transferred $20 million to the main UNC system to help ease the universities' pain from state budget cuts.

UNC Health CEO Bill Roper announced the transfer at a joint meeting of the UNC Health and Rex Healthcare boards today in Raleigh.

Auditors are still tallying final results for the fiscal year that ended June 30, but UNC Health had a good year with its operations and investments, said spokeswoman Karen McCall. The health system expects to report an operating margin of 5 percent to 6 percent, better than the year before.

UNC President Tom Ross and UNC Chapel Hill chancellor Holden Thorp had requested the money as they reviewed the cuts the system was facing, McCall said. Last week, Ross announced that the UNC system would allocate $414 million in cuts across its system, with UNC Chapel Hill taking an 18 percent hit and N.C. State taking a 15 percent reduction.

"This is a good example of how our system is trying very hard in these tough times to stay together," McCall said. "This is an opportunity to help in an extraordinary time."

WakeMed CEO warns UNC Health: Don't let emotions rule Rex review

WakeMed's top executive is warning leaders at the UNC Health Care System not to let public opinions sway their decision as they weigh his $750 million buyout offer for Rex Healthcare.

A UNC Health committee this week began a review of WakeMed's takeover bid for Rex by setting up a website to collect public comments on the proposed deal, which would combine Wake County's largest hospitals.

"This is a decision that has to get a hard look whether people like it not," WakeMed CEO Bill Atkinson said in a phone interview.

"It's not difficult to find a lot of people to come down on any side of an issue," he added. "You don't want to dismiss those opinions, but you don't want to forget that this is a serious business transaction and not just an emotional issue."

Meanwhile, WakeMed also is urging doctors, patients and others to let UNC Health know that they support its offer to buy Rex, which was announced in early May. In e-mails and an online memo, WakeMed is asking people to share comments at the feedback website set up by UNC Health.

UNC Health seeks public comments on WakeMed bid for Rex

A committee set up by the UNC Health Care System to review WakeMed's $750 million, unsolicited bid to buy rival hospital Rex Healthcare is seeking public comments on the deal.

The committee, which met for the first time today in Chapel Hill, set up an online feedback form here.

"This is just one piece of a larger puzzle, but we felt it was important to hear from community members and patients that we serve," said UNC Health spokeswoman Jennifer James. The committee also will weigh factors in its review such as financial data, legal issues, quality of care and more.

UNC officials have said they aren't interested in selling Rex, which the system bought in 2000. But they are reviewing WakeMed's offer as part of their "fiduciary responsibility."

WakeMed ads aim to explain Rex offer

WakeMed has started a short advertising campaign to bolster support for its $750 million offer to buy rival hospital Rex Healthcare.

The print and radio ads, which will run for a week or so, are designed to answer some questions about why WakeMed made the offer, said spokeswoman Debbie Laughery.

"One way for us to get our side of the story out there is to put it in ads," she added. "We received questions and there are some misunderstandings."

The ads contend that combining Rex with WakeMed won't disrupt health care or limit choice, and will create a stronger, unified health system that's better able to focus on adding new services rather than duplicating existing care.

The UNC Health Care System has owned Rex since 2000. UNC officials have said they aren't interested in sale, but on Monday, the UNC Health board announced it has formed a committee to review WakeMed's offer over the next several weeks.

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