Carolinas HealthCare System alleges that Mecklenburg County has failed to honor its longtime contract with the hospital authority by eliminating indigent care funding and reducing money for the health department in its 2011-12 budget without proper notice. It also said the county has improperly withheld money to CHS in recent weeks.
In court papers filed Thursday, the hospital system asked the courts to compel the county to honor the terms of its agreement with CHS "unless and until such time as the contract is properly terminated with appropriate notice." Or, Carolinas HealthCare said, the court could order the county to pay damages.
Read the suit by clicking here. The filing comes two days after Mecklenburg commissioners voted to end the county's contract with Carolinas HealthCare effective June 30, 2013.
The hospital authority also wants a court to declare the CHS has fulfilled its obligations under the contract.
In June, county commissioners approved a budget that cut a subsidy to CHS and Novant Health toward indigent care. The spending plan also cuts $500,000 from a contract the hospital system has to manage services at the county's health department.
In its suit, Carolinas HealthCare says the county has the right to make changes to its agreement, but can't without appropriate notice. The suit also states that the withholding of payments to the hospital "terminates certain aspects of the 2000 Joint Undertaking, without providing CHS appropriate notice."
The county has withheld payments to the hospital systems since early June when County Manager Harry Jones and other administrators said CHS was in breach of its agreement. The county says the hospital has not provided certain patient data and other information required under the contract. This week, the county also claimed the hospital hasn't conducted psychiatric evaluations for disabled adults served by the Department of Social Services.
The hospital has denied both allegations. It says it has worked diligently to provide required data and in accordance with state and federal law. -- APRIL BETHEA