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Contract to Purchase Medical Practice Non-Exempt Under North Carolina Public Records Act

The North Carolina Court of Appeals has held that a contract by a public hospital to purchase a medical practice is not “competitive health care information” that exempts the contract form the State’s Public Records Act.

Before the Court was the appeal of Wilkes Regional Medical Center Operation Corporation, the governing body of the Wilkes Regional Medical Center (WRMC), a public hospital owned by the town of North Wilkerboro, contenting a trial court’s order that granted summary judgment to Carter-Hubbard Publishing Company, publisher of Wilkes Journal Patriot.

In 2004, WRMC purchased Dr Nicholas Grillo’s gastroenterologist medical practice. The publisher sought a copy of the contract making the purchase. Based upon the “competitive healthcare information” exemption to North Carolina’s Public Records Act, WRMC denied the request.

The Appeals Court held the exemption applies only to information relating to “financial terms and other competitive health care information directly related to financial terms” in a health services contract. This “does not encompass the acquisition of a medical practice. Instead, it encompasses contracts between a hospital or a medical school and a managed care organization, insurance company, employer, or other payer.

As such, the trial court’s order compelling disclosure of the contract was affirmed. See: Carter-Hubbard Publishing, Inc. v. WRMC Hospital Operation Corp., 633 S.E. 2d 682 (2006).

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Related legal case

Carter-Hubbard Publishing, Inc. v. WRMC Hospital Operation Corp.