Partnership strengthens rural healthcare, expands access to specialty services for the Mountain Region

MORGANTON, N.C. / CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (October 1, 2021) – The leadership from Blue Ridge HealthCare and UNC Health today announced that the organizations have finalized a comprehensive Management Services Agreement. This partnership with UNC Health allows Blue Ridge to strengthen rural healthcare throughout the Mountain Region while moving toward becoming the regional center for North Carolina’s largest academic health system.

The organizations share a unique and special commitment to rural healthcare in the Mountain Region and are jointly committed to enhancing and growing access to high-quality healthcare close to home for generations to come. Through this partnership, Blue Ridge will rebrand as UNC Health Blue Ridge.

“This important day reflects the hard work of our leadership team including our Board of Directors and our exceptional team of healthcare professionals and providers, as we worked together to usher in the future of healthcare in our region,” said J. Michael Bridges, Chair of the Blue Ridge HealthCare System Board of Directors. “As we shared earlier this year, the agreement between Blue Ridge (with campuses in Morganton and Valdese) and UNC Health will enhance the quality of healthcare and grow specialty and other important services in ways not possible otherwise. We are incredibly excited to take this step forward with a partner who shares our commitment to rural healthcare in this region.”

Together, UNC Health and Blue Ridge intend to build a leading healthcare option for UNC Health’s Mountain Region and form a high-performing network of facilities and clinicians focused on providing the best patient care, increasing affordability and efficiency, engaging with patients and local communities to elevate public health while keeping more care local by increasing access to primary and higher-level specialty services. In addition, the agreement will:

  • Enhance and grow Blue Ridge’s clinical programs and service lines, including adding appropriate specialty healthcare services at Blue Ridge and UNC Health facilities;
  • Improve access to research and clinical trials for citizens across the region;
  • Maintain and enhance teammate and provider satisfaction and retention;
  • Leverage UNC Health’s existing population health solutions for the benefit of the residents of the Mountain Region; and,
  • Collectively explore innovative rural healthcare models that will make UNC Health and Blue Ridge a leader in value-based care regionally and across the state.

In addition, the community members of the Board of Directors will remain local, governed by the same bylaws in place today.

“This thoughtful and carefully considered partnership by Blue Ridge and UNC Health reflects a commitment to keep our local communities and patients at the center of care by enhancing, growing and securing access to superior healthcare right here at home,” said UNC Health Blue Ridge President and CEO Kathy Bailey. “UNC Health recognizes the value of our team of caregivers and professionals – throughout our system – who are highly skilled and experts at caring for our patients. With this important partnership finalized, UNC Health Blue Ridge will be at the forefront of the future of healthcare in the region.”

The rural health expertise and scale of UNC Health will allow Blue Ridge to benefit from enhancements in clinical and organizational initiatives, purchasing support, access to additional clinical, operational knowledge, and much more. Over the coming weeks and months, and well into next year, the health system will transition operations to more closely align with the protocols, policies, procedures, and high clinical standards established by UNC Health.

“We are very excited to officially welcome Blue Ridge to the UNC Health family today,” said Wesley Burks, MD, CEO of UNC Health and Dean of the UNC School of Medicine. “A robust, coordinated rural healthcare network is critical to the health of all North Carolinians. Partnering with Blue Ridge further advances our ability to ensure high-quality healthcare is locally accessible in the Mountain Region. We welcome Blue Ridge teammates and providers to the UNC Health family and look forward to learning from each other as we serve the Mountain Region and create a healthier North Carolina together.”

To celebrate the agreement with UNC Health and unveil the new UNC Health Blue Ridge brand, leaders held a virtual announcement this morning on the UNC Health Blue Ridge campus. The video is available by clicking here. To learn more about the partnership, please visit Blue Ridge Health Forward. or the new UNC Health Blue Ridge website at UNCHealthBlueRidge.org.