Plans announced for ECU Physicians
(July 28, 2006)
East Carolina University officials today announced new plans to assure the fiscal stability and long-term financial strength of the university's medical faculty physicians group
That group, known as ECU Physicians, offers medical services to the public through offices and practice sites at the Brody School of Medicine and about 15 other locations throughout Greenville and other communities.
ECU Physicians, like similar groups at medical schools nationwide, has been under increased financial pressure in recent years, a reflection of national trends such as declining reimbursement rates from Medicare, Medicaid and private insurers, and rapidly mounting costs throughout the health-care industry.
In addition, ECU Physicians has faced local factors such as several years of state budget cuts and a growing number of patients without health insurance in eastern North Carolina.
ECU Physicians has experienced a cumulative net loss of more than $25 million over the last six years.
Chancellor Steve Ballard said, "Clearly we must act aggressively and act immediately to solve these budget problems. The financial stability of ECU Physicians is critical to the ongoing success of our medical school and our university."
Ballard said that the university will hire the ECG consulting group of Seattle to assist in developing a plan to balance the budget and in creating a blueprint for future organization and operations.
"We expect to see a variety of recommendations to both increase revenues and reduce expenses," Ballard said. "Nothing should be off-limits in these discussions." He also said he will appoint a steering committee that will have representation from the ECU Board of Trustees, ECU Physicians and senior university administrators. He called on faculty members and staff members in the medical school and the physicians group to support and participate in efforts to increase revenues and control expenses.
The chancellor said that various steps to reduce the deficit have been taken over the past several years. They include strengthening the university's capacity to attract research grants and contracts, revamping the university's fund-raising operations, reducing the number of administrative positions in the medical school, and consolidating some medical school operations with those of the central campus.
Also, the university and its partners this year will open a community health center that will receive federal operating funds, thus reducing the cost of providing care to indigent patients. The university also will continue to press for legislative relief from indigent care costs.
Additional measures will still be needed to balance the practice plan's budget. "We must find significant additional opportunities to bring expenses in line with revenues," Ballard said. "Going forward, our financial management must be as good as our patient care and our academics."