WakeMed heats up over rival's alleged misuse of public funds

An intrastate rivalry is brewing in North Carolina, where WakeMed Health & Hospitals--one of the state's biggest private providers--has accused publicly owned UNC Health Care (and UNC-owned Rex Healthcare, which operates as a private entity) of trying to simultaneously horn in on its healthcare action and steal doctors away. 

WakeMed, which alleges that UNC/Rex is using taxpayer funds to create an unfair financial advantage for itself by offering services already offered by WakeMed, filed a public records request this week to view the tax records and physician correspondence of UNC Health Care to try to make its case. Bill Atkinson, WakeMed's CEO, called out Rex for essentially having their cake and eating it too by shifting between private and public status as it suited the organization. 

"We're one of the state's major providers of indigent care, especially in Wake County," Atkinson said, according to the Herald-Sun. "Rex has not had a very good track record in that regard. We think it's a state-sponsored institution and it's something that needs to be discussed." 

Karen McCall, UNC Health Care vice president of public affairs and marketing, responded only by acknowledging receipt of the records request, saying in an email "we are reviewing it." 

Clark Havighurst, a professor emeritus of healthcare and antitrust law with Duke University, told the Herald-Sun that he sees WakeMed's moves as merely playing politics because of its uneasiness in facing new competition in Wake County. 

"[UNC/Rex] probably earns profits that can [be used] to expand in any way it wants, without tapping into the state treasury," Havighurst said. 

To learn more:
- read this Herald-Sun article
- check out this Associated Press piece
- read this Triangle Business Journal story