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Among the changes announced today by ECU Health due to a $46 million loss at the end of the fiscal year in September will be the closing of the ECU Health North Inpatient Behavioral Health unit in Roanoke Rapids.

This decision is in alignment with the previously announced 2025 opening of the new behavioral health hospital in Greenville. The decision has been accelerated by the ongoing national labor shortage, the health system said.

The unit will discontinue operations effective February 25 and the licensed beds will transition to the new behavioral hospital.

“Importantly, patients in the community will continue to have access to inpatient behavioral health care at ECU Health Medical Center, ECU Health Roanoke-Chowan Hospital and other non-ECU Health locations,” the health system said. “ECU Health North will work closely with patients and referrers as a result of this transition. ECU Health North will continue to evaluate patients in the emergency department for placement or in need of inpatient behavioral health care.”

ECU Health said dedicated resources will be available to support the 22 team members impacted by the ECU Health North Inpatient Behavioral Health decision and help them identify roles within the health system for which they are interested and qualified. 

In addition to the ECU North decision, ECU Health announced a number of adjustments to its care delivery system “designed to help the organization adapt to a rapidly-changing healthcare environment while creating clinical and operational efficiencies needed to ensure the immediate and long-term sustainability of the health system.”

The system ended the 2022 fiscal year — October 1, 2021 through September 30, 2022 — with a negative 2 percent operating margin which translates to a $46 million loss.

The health system said the factors in that loss were primarily driven by financial pressures including a disproportionate number of uninsured or underinsured patients as well as labor costs for travel staff.

“ECU Health has given careful consideration to the … initial operational adjustments in order to minimize impact to patients and team members,” the system said. “These decisions were made following a detailed review of patient census, nearby availability of similar services and staffing realities.”

The system said it will work closely with patients to transition care to nearby locations. “Dedicated resources are available to support team members impacted by the clinic closures and help them relocate to nearby locations. These adjustments, combined with other cost-saving initiatives, are necessary to respond to the current state of health care across the nation and here in North Carolina.”

The system said it will continue to be vocal in its advocacy for funding programs such as Medicaid Expansion and the Healthcare Access and Stabilization Program as well as other state and federal resources that are part of the solution to stabilize health care in rural communities. “While ECU Health is cautiously optimistic one or both of these programs may come to fruition later this year, the health system must continue to evolve and optimize operations to ensure it is able to meet its mission now and into the future. This includes making difficult, yet necessary, operational decisions.”

In addition to the ECU North decision, the system announced the following changes:

Ambulatory clinic site closures

After rigorous review, the health system is closing five regional ambulatory clinic sites. “Importantly, ECU Health is committed to keeping patients informed and will use various communications channels to provide details, including mailing a letter to the home address on record by the end of March.”

ECU Health Women’s Care – Williamston

Positions relocating to ECU Health Women’s Care – Washington or nearby ECU Health Physicians clinics.

ECU Health Family Medicine – Jacksonville

Primary care positions relocating to ECU Health Multispecialty Clinic – Richlands, and cardiology positions relocating to ECU Health Duplin Hospital.

Wilson Immediate Care

Immediate care services in Wilson will cease, and positions will transition to ECU Healthplex – Wilson. Same-day walk-ins for established patients will remain.

ECU Health Family Medicine – Aurora 

Positions relocating to ECU Health Family Medicine – Chocowinity or nearby ECU Health Physicians clinics.

ECU Health Family Medicine – Snow Hill

Positions relocating to ECU Health Multispecialty Clinic – Kinston or nearby ECU Health Physicians clinic locations.

“These decisions are difficult, yet necessary to ensure ECU Health’s ongoing ability to provide excellent care and service to eastern North Carolina,” the system said. “The health system continues to evaluate opportunities to be more efficient at delivering health care throughout the east while also continuing to advocate for support from elected officials in Raleigh and Washington, D.C.”