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Burke County System Would Expand Local Access to More High-Quality Specialty Services

MORGANTON, N.C. / CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (April 22, 2021) The CHS Blue Ridge (Blue Ridge) Board of Directors and the UNC Health Board of Directors have announced the approval of a non-binding Letter of Intent (LOI) for Blue Ridge to become part of the UNC Health family through a comprehensive Management Services Agreement (MSA).

The proposed partnership between Blue Ridge (with campuses in Morganton and Valdese) and UNC Health aims to enhance the quality of healthcare and grow specialty services in the Unifour region and beyond in ways not possible otherwise. The potential partnership underscores both UNC Health’s and Blue Ridge’s commitment to rural healthcare in North Carolina and will focus on delivering an even higher level of care throughout the region. If finalized, Blue Ridge would become part of North Carolina’s leading public academic healthcare system that includes 12 other hospitals and hundreds of clinics throughout the state.

Both organizations share a commitment to improving rural healthcare in the Mountain Region and envision further improving access to high-quality healthcare close to home for the people of the region. The partnership would also increase primary and specialty services while growing access to an expanded network of care in the surrounding community.

To facilitate the partnership with UNC Health, Blue Ridge intends to separate from its current management services agreement with Atrium Health.

“The Board of Directors understands the importance of having a partner that shares our commitment to rural health care and our local community,” said Michael Bridges, Chair of the Blue Ridge HealthCare System Board of Directors. “While our relationship with Atrium Health has been valuable, the Board has determined that partnering with UNC Health is the right next step to further improve Blue Ridge’s ability to enhance the lives of those we serve right here in the Unifour region.”

Joining UNC Health will allow Blue Ridge to strengthen rural healthcare throughout the Mountain Region by further enhancing the medical capabilities of providers and expanding the services Blue Ridge offers today. Importantly, this potential partnership would allow for new and additional specialty services in the community, keeping care local and improving services for the diverse needs of the region.

Specifically, UNC Health and Blue Ridge intend to:

  • Build a leading healthcare option for UNC Health’s Mountain Region. We will do this over time by joining forces to create a hub for coordination of care in the area with our leadership teams and boards working closely together;
  • 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, and keeping more care local by increasing access to primary and higher-level specialty services;
  • 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 Unifour region;
  • Maintain and enhance employee and provider satisfaction and retention;
  • Leverage UNC Health’s existing population health solutions to 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.


“UNC Health’s vision for this potential partnership aligns with our longtime commitment to our employees, physicians, patients and community, and I am very encouraged by what a final agreement would mean for our region moving forward,” said Bridges. “Our Board of Directors has been very thoughtful and careful while considering their decision to explore this opportunity. This important step reflects our commitment to be solely focused on our local communities and patients by enhancing, growing and securing access to superior healthcare right here at home.”

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 and operational expertise, and much more.

“A robust, coordinated rural healthcare network is critical to the health of all North Carolinians and adding Blue Ridge to the UNC Health family further advances our ability to ensure high-quality healthcare is locally accessible in this region of North Carolina,” said Wesley Burks, MD, CEO of UNC Health. “Our shared commitment to rural healthcare makes adding Blue Ridge to our care delivery network a natural fit that will benefit the entire region for years to come.”

While this is an important announcement and milestone for the community and health systems, there is still more work to do in determining the specific details of a potential partnership, and nothing changes today. As this work continues, Blue Ridge remains focused on delivering on its mission, and its commitment to be the best community healthcare system is stronger than ever.

Pending further Board approvals and standard regulatory review, we hope to finalize the partnership later this year. To learn more about the proposed partnership between Blue Ridge and UNC Health, please visit


About CHS Blue Ridge
CHS Blue Ridge ( is a not-for-profit community healthcare system, providing advanced healthcare and wellness services from more than 40 locations across a three-county region of Western North Carolina. The system includes one hospital with two locations, a wellness center, and a continuing care retirement community. Nearly 120 primary care physicians, physician specialists and extenders in the Blue Ridge Medical Group combine with other physicians on the Medical Staff to serve patients in the region. Blue Ridge provides graduate medical education programs for medical school graduates and students in osteopathic medicine.


About UNC Health
UNC Health is an integrated health care system owned by the state of North Carolina and based in Chapel Hill. It exists to further the teaching mission of the University of North Carolina and to provide state-of-the-art patient care.

UNC Health is comprised of UNC Hospitals at Chapel Hill, ranked consistently among the best medical centers in the country; the UNC School of Medicine, a nationally eminent research institution; Pardee UNC Health Care in Hendersonville; Chatham Hospital in Siler City; Johnston Health in Clayton and Smithfield; UNC Lenoir Health Care in Kinston; Wayne UNC Health Care in Goldsboro; Caldwell UNC Health Care in Lenoir; Nash UNC Health Care in Rocky Mount; UNC Rockingham Health Care in Eden, Onslow Memorial Hospital in Jacksonville, UNC Health Southeastern in Lumberton, UNC REX Healthcare and its provider network in Wake County; and the UNC Physicians Network. For more information, please visit