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Duke LifePoint completes hospital deal

Just after midnight on Saturday, Wilson Medical Center officially became a part of Duke LifePoint Healthcare, a joint venture of LifePoint Hospitals and Duke University Health Systems.

The deal officially closed at 12:01 a.m. on Saturday, confirmed Diane Huggins, LifePoint vice president of communications and Thomas Stukes, Wilson Medical Center attorney.

Under the terms of the joint venture agreement, Duke LifePoint owns 80 percent of the Wilson hospital while Wilson Medical Center owns the remaining 20 percent.

"This is a very exciting day for our employees, physicians, patients and community,” Jim Pridgen, chairman of the Wilson Medical Center Board of Directors, said in a statement. "Our board is thrilled to finalize this agreement and begin our new future as part of Duke LifePoint. We look forward to working with the team at Duke LifePoint in the months and years to come to expand the ways that we can make this community healthier.”

The contribution agreement reached between the parties calls for $120 million in capital investments at Wilson Medical Center over the next decade.

"Wilson Medical Center is a wonderful addition to Duke LifePoint,” said Dr. William J. Fulkerson Jr., executive vice president of Duke University Health System. "We are pleased to add it to our growing network of community hospitals and health care providers. Together, we have a great opportunity to transform health care delivery in Wilson and the surrounding region.”

Governance of the Wilson hospital will be split 50-50 through a 10-member board with five Duke LifePoint members and five Wilson members. A Wilson County commissioner will serve as one of the five Wilson members. Commissioner Thomas Lucas has been named. A separate board of trustees consisting of physicians, community leaders and a representative from Duke LifePoint will be established.

Starting today, Jerry Dooley will join Wilson Medical Center as interim chief executive officer. He succeeds President and CEO Rick Hudson, whose retirement was effective as the deal closed.

Dooley will serve as interim CEO until a new hospital leader is selected through a national search process that has been initiated, Huggins said.

"Right now, we are conducting a thorough search to find the right person to fill this important role on a permanent basis,” Huggins said.

Hudson will remain at the hospital for an additional six months to tie up aspects of the deal.

"Rick Hudson has been an excellent leader at Wilson Medical Center, and we wish him the very best in his retirement,” LifePoint Chairman and Chief Executive Officer William F. Carpenter III said in a statement. "We are confident that Jerry can successfully lead the transition for Wilson Medical Center as it becomes part of Duke LifePoint’s network of hospitals. He is a seasoned hospital executive who will be a great addition to the Wilson team until a permanent CEO is named. We look forward to working with the leadership at Wilson to strengthen and enhance health care services to the community.”

Dooley is from Terre Haute, Ind., and has spent seven years serving as interim CEO for hospitals within the LifePoint system. Dooley holds a master’s degree in economics from Indiana State University and a master’s degree in hospital administration from the University of Minnesota.

An interim chief financial officer, Debbie Kyzar, is also on-site. Under the LifePoint model, a chief operating officer will be named. That person would fall under the CEO in the organizational structure. A search is under way at this time to identify that person.

Wilson Medical Center is the fifth hospital nationally and third hospital in North Carolina to become part of Duke LifePoint Healthcare.


Earlier this month, the North Carolina attorney general’s office signed off on the Wilson Medical Center-Duke LifePoint merger. Clearing this last major hurdle allowed Duke LifePoint to acquire 80 percent of Wilson Medical Center.

The Wilson County Board of Commissioners also signed off on the deal by releasing the county’s reverter clause after adding a provision that would ensure a county commissioner would always serve as a voting member of the hospital’s main governing board.

Those who opposed the merger spoke at county commissioners’ meetings and collected names for a petition. They wrote to and spoke to attorney general’s office officials during the state’s regulatory review.

Duke LifePoint officials have said they can strengthen Wilson Medical Center and be successful by combining operational and clinical strength.

Wilson Medical Center officials announced their intention late in 2012 to seek a partner for the future. The implementation of the Affordable Care Act approved by Congress and signed by President Barack Obama March 23, 2010, is driving the movement, along with cutbacks in medical reimbursements and turbulent changes in the health care landscape.


LifePoint operates hospitals primarily in non-urban areas. Company filings and annual reports noted the company has a total of 6,565 licensed beds and 28,000 employees at the end of 2012. LifePoint alone plans to be in about 60 communities in 20 states.

Duke LifePoint owns five hospitals and a company that offers hospital-based catheterization labs and mobile catheterization services.

That joint venture has been in an acquisition pattern in recent years and has been particularly active in North Carolina. But it stretches as far north as Michigan. It also owns Maria Parham Medical Center in Henderson, Marquette General Health System in Marquette, Mich., Person Memorial Hospital in Roxboro, Twin County Regional Healthcare in Galax, Va., and DLP

Cardiac Partners in Charlotte.

Duke LifePoint also has signed a definitive agreement to form a joint venture with Rutherford Regional Medical Center in Rutherfordton and memoranda of understanding to acquire WestCare Health System in Sylva and Haywood Regional Medical Center in Clyde.

Duke University Health System calls Durham home. LifePoint Hospitals is headquartered in Brentwood, Tenn. LifePoint is the managing partner.

LifePoint and Duke created their joint venture in 2011 with a 97 percent ownership stake for LifePoint and 3 percent for Duke.

Wilson Medical Center, which has more than 1,300 employees, has emerged as the third-largest private employer in Wilson County. The hospital and its related facilities sustain a $56 million payroll and has 294 beds.

Huggins said officials have already started a collaborative strategic planning process with the hospital. As part of the process, they will look to assess and enhance services. | 265-7813
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