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Pieces of Eight

ECU Physicians Plans Announced

Chancellor Steve Ballard has named an 11-member advisory committee to oversee changes to assure the financial stability of the Medical Faculty Practice Plan at the Brody School of Medicine.

The practice plan, also known as ECU Physicians, offers medical services to ECU faculty and staff and other members of the public through offices and practice sites at the medical school and about 15 other locations throughout Greenville and other communities.

The practice plan, 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.

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.”

The new steering committee will be chaired by David Brody, a member of the university’s Board of Trustees. Other members are Board of Trustees members Robbie Hill and Bruce Austin; Ballard; Dr. Michael Lewis, vice chancellor for health sciences; and Dr. Michael Rotondo, chair of the Department of Surgery.

Also, Dr. Ronald Perkin, chair of the Department of Pediatrics, Dr. Valerie Gilchrist, chair of the Department of Family Medicine; Stephen Lawler, chief administrative officer of University Health Systems; Janice Faulkner, community representative; and Dr. Walter Pories, professor of surgery.

Ballard said that the university has hired 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 called on faculty members and staff members in the medical school and the physicians group to support and participate in efforts to enhance 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.

In addition, the university and its partners 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.

This page originally appeared in the Sept. 1, 2006 issue of Pieces of Eight. Complete issue is archived at