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August 7, 2019

UNC-Chapel Hill Employee Forum

Hitchcock Multipurpose Room, Sonja H. Stone Center for Black Culture and History

NOTE:  This is a draft agenda and is subject to change without notice.

I.   Call to Order & Opening Remarks—Chair Shayna Hill (9:15 a.m. – 9:20 a.m.)

  • Welcome to Guests & Members of the Press

II.  Special Presentations (9:20 a.m. – 10:35 a.m.)

  • Dr. A. Wesley Burks, CEO of UNC Health Care and Dean of the School of Medicine
  • Ebony Johnson on Event Life Program
  • Sarah Pickhardt, Emergency Management Planner, on Community Emergency Response Center

III. Human Resources Update (10:35 a.m. – 10:55 a.m.)

  • Interim Vice Chancellor for Workforce Strategy, Equity and Engagement Becci Menghini
  • Associate Vice Chancellor for Human Resources Linc Butler

IV. Consent Agenda (10:55 a.m. – 11:10 a.m.)

V.  Old Business (11:10 a.m. – 11:15 a.m.)

VI. New Business (11:15 a.m. – 11:25 a.m.)

  • Need for New Forum Treasurer
  • Monday, August 26th Community Meeting on the State Health Plan’s Clear Pricing Project
  • Need for UNC System Staff Assembly Delegates in September

VII. Announcements/Questions (11:25 -11:30 a.m.)

VIII. Adjournment


August 7, 2019 Employee Forum minutes


Attending:  Darren Abrecht, LE Alexander, Emma Beckham, Ashley Belcher, Rich Brandenburg, Shane Brogan, Tiffany Carver, Timothy Carville, Adrienne Cromwell, Jen DeNeal, Morgan Douglas, Stephanie Forman, Adrianne Gibilisco, Chrissie Greenberg, Shayna Hill, Keith Hines, James Holman, Mary King, Jeff McQueen, Arlene Medder, Clinton Miller, Kadejah Murray, Katie Musgrove, Hoi Ning Ngai, Jim Potts, Laura Pratt, Ricky Riviella, Kevin Robinson, Greg Smith, James Stamey, Allison Standard, Rose Thorp, Tracy Wetherby Williams, Travis Wilson


Excused Absences:  Natiaya Neal, David Rogers


Chair Shayna Hill called the meeting to order at 9:15 a.m.  She noted the recent passing of author Toni Morrison.  Hoi Ning Ngai announced that she would leave the University soon to work at Bates College in Maine.  The Chair welcomed Rose Thorp back from maternity leave.

The Chair welcomed Dr. A. Wesley Burks, CEO of the UNC Health Care System (HCS) and Dean of the UNC-Chapel Hill School of the Medicine, to speak on the Clear Pricing Project.  Dr. Burks noted his background as a pediatrician.  He recalled the creation by legislative action of the Health Care System in 1997 from UNC-Chapel Hill.  He also noted that the Health Care System has added Rex Hospitals in addition to other smaller hospitals since its formation.  Currently, the HCS employs over 31,000 employees across the State.

Dr. Burks said that the mission of the Health Care System is to promote health and well-being throughout North Carolina.  He expanded this definition to include improving the quality of health care, promoting work and research to improve people’s lives, and educating students through programs at the School of Medicine.  He introduced Lisa Schiller, Interim Chief Communications Officer for the Health Care System, Dr. Matt Ewend, President of UNC Physicians and Andy Willis, Chief of Staff for the Health Care System.

Dr. Burks noted that strategic planning in this area had begun a year ago given continuing increases in the cost of health care.  He said that the external environment had made it important to find ways to address health care needs by improving quality, decreasing cost and increasing transparency.

Dr. Burks noted that private insurers, Blue Cross, Medicaid and other organizations have shifted a value-based approach to what subscribers do to stay healthy, rather than the old fee for service model.  He said that the value-based model would work to keep subscribers healthy and out of the hospital, resulting in reduced costs through early intervention.

Dr. Burks hoped that the State Health Plan would embrace this approach as he believed that it provides better health care.  He noted that the Health Care System has a contract with the State Plan until December which is administered through the State Treasurer’s Office.  Dr. Burks believed that the goals of the Health Care System and the State Health Plan are similar: to reduce costs and increase transparency.  He said that differences have arisen in the different strategies used to maintain subscriber health.  He asked why disagreements should occur given that the two organizations share many of the same goals.

Dr. Matt Ewend noted his background as a neurosurgeon.  He said that the health-based system approach had reduced costs for the Health Care System by 8% in one year, strictly by improving subscriber health.  He recalled the case of a subscriber who had visited the emergency room 36 times, incurring a great cost to the State Plan.  He said that the fee for service model had not addressed this person’s underlying behavioral health issues.  However, the health-based approach to this subscriber relied on in-home interventions to treat this person’s underlying problems, leading to a reduction of hospital visits and health care costs.  Dr. Ewend said that providing the best possible care is the goal of the Health Care System.

Dr. Burks said that the health-based approach to care has led to managed care plan implementation by the Department of Health and Human Services and Medicaid.  He said that all of North Carolina’s insurance carriers have moved towards the health-based care model, with about ½ achieving complete implementation.  He said that in four years all carriers will likely move to this model.  He thanked the Forum for the opportunity to speak.

James Holman asked why the Health Care System is against the Clear Pricing Project.  Dr. Burks said that the Health Care System does not oppose the Project and has pledged to sign a letter making a commitment to total transparency in all its actions.  Holman asked if the HCS would make more money in the Clear Pricing Project.  Dr. Burks said that these questions are relative but said that the HCS needs to do differently and better.  Andy Willis noted that the Health Care System had achieved an $80 million reduction in costs this year including rural hospitals, with $40 million of the current reduction going into the State Health Plan.  He said that UNC Hospitals had seen a $13 million reduction in costs and the Lenoir County hospital had seen a $6 million reduction in costs.  He emphasized that the Health Care System and the State Treasurer James Folwell share the same goals:  reducing cost, increasing transparency, and increasing quality of care.

Katie Musgrove asked when the final contract with the State Health Plan would be signed.  Dr. Burks said that the current timeline stretches through December.  Timelines beyond December can feature new iterations in a new contract.  He said that HCS leaders met Monday with leaders of the State Health Plan towards meeting the mutual goals mentioned earlier.  He reiterated a desire to move to the health-based care model.

Musgrove asked if employees will know their coverage status in advance of open enrollment.  Willis said that contract negotiations lasting late into the calendar year are not unusual, although typically these negotiations are not carried out in such a public way as had occurred this year.

Chrissie Greenberg said that many employees work in service roles.  She had grown up in Chapel Hill and had received phenomenal care from the UNC Health Care System.  She particularly praised the excellent treatment and service provided by HCS.  She noted, however, that clients now absorb huge costs under State Health Plan coverage, ranging up to $900/month for dependent care.  She said that employees find the current situation very scary with the possibility that health care negotiations will result in their providers falling out of network.  She granted that the business of health care is very complex but said that if the contracts are not signed, many employees will suffer.

Dr. Burks said that the Health Care System has committed to the State Health Plan going forward.  He said that HCS agrees with State Plan leaders about some aspects of the current situation but not others.  Nonetheless, he was confident there would be an agreement by January.

James Holman asked why the Health Care System does not want the Treasurer to see the cost of various procedures.  He understood that when the Treasurer requested a list of these procedures and their charges, the Health Care System provided a blank book.  Dr. Burks said that the HCS is totally committed to transparency and was going in this direction regardless of the course of the State Plan.  However, the Health Care System’s competitors have not yet made a similar commitment.  He said that the Treasurer’s request had asked for information about specific procedure contracts for people apart from the State Plan.  He said that the Health Care System was uncomfortable revealing this pricing information to its competition.  He understood the general frustration over this decision and said that going forward the commitment is to transparency.

Jen DeNeal asked about the feasibility of the Clear Pricing Plan for rural hospitals that cannot afford the Plan’s cuts.  She asked about implementation of health-based care in these locations.  Dr. Ewend said that several rural hospitals have partnered with the Health Care System.  However, the HCS must find ways to implement “tele-visits” with patients and doctors to assist these hospitals with care.

Dr. Ewend said that the Health Care System is a business but does not have shareholders.  The HCS devotes a great deal of funding towards supporting patients lacking a safety net.  He noted the possibility that pulling the rug out could result in a loss of residential training.  In smaller towns, rural hospitals are often the largest employers in the area.  He noted the possibility that these hospitals will shut down under recent proposals and he recalled HCS efforts to partner with and save these small hospitals.

Dr. Burks noted that North Carolina has the second largest rural population in the U.S.  He said that hospitals treating these areas demand different approaches to care.  Rose Thorp noted that her child is not covered by the State Health Plan as her family must use the cheaper care available through her husband’s plan.  Andy Willis said that the State Plan is not a miracle and is not a great plan.  He said that the Plan could negotiate as other plans do to become better and cheaper.  Willis added that the UNC Health Care System is the only State entity that gets no appropriation to pay for health care for its employees.  Instead, it absorbs these costs from margin.

Tracy Wetherby-Williams asked if Dr. Burks could describe value-based and health-based care, given environmental factors.  She wondered how providers can better approach preventative care through immunization and nutrition.  She noted that some patients may see these efforts as punitive.  Dr. Ewend said that the Health Care System will take less than the federal government says in margin.  Instead, the Health Care System has worked to incentivize health-based care for large groups of folks.

Jim Potts asked what UNC employees can do to help the State Health Plan become better.  Andy Willis said that cost has become such a large part of the equation.  Dr. Burks thought that employees could advocate health-based care in conversations with State Plan officials.

Chrissie Greenberg asked about the availability of videoconferencing options for coverage.  She praised the work of the Urgent Care facility on 54 West.  Willis noted that costs of the State Plan are driven by retirees leaving the work force at 50 years old who now live until 90.  He said that this situation must change.

Dr. Burks asked if there were further questions.  He noted the commitment of the Health Care System to December and beyond to discuss costs, margins, and transparency.  He emphasized the importance of fulfilling the health care mission over adding to the bottom line at HCS.  He committed to providing the best possible care at reduced costs and with increased transparency.

The Chair welcomed Event Life President Ebony Johnson to speak about the work of her group.  Johnson welcomed Mark Steffen and Laura Pratt, among others, as Event Life officers.  Johnson recalled her experience as a new event planner at the University.  She drew from that experience to build a “GPS for planners” in the form of Event Life.

Laura Pratt noted that Event Life exists to share resources, to provide professional development opportunities, and to build community among members.  Mark Steffen outlined the committee structure of the group.  He noted that the Executive Leadership Team of Event Life meets regularly to discuss planning for upcoming events.  The University has over two hundred event planners planning over one thousand events a year.  Johnson invited interested employees to contact the organization at

Allison Standard asked what occurs when an employee contacts the organization.  Johnson said that there is an immediate response inviting the employee to fill out an application.  Employees can choose their levels of involvement.

The Chair introduced Sarah Pickhardt, Orange County Emergency Management Planner, to discuss the Community Emergency Response Center (CERT).  She noted her role coordinating responders locally.

Pickhardt noted the history of CERT which began with the earthquakes in Mexico City in 1981 that led to hundreds of needless deaths due to people wanting to administer aid but not knowing how to do so.  The CERT program was created in 1986 and FEMA adopted the program in 1993.  Orange County adopted the training protocol in 2005.

The mission of CERT is to do the greatest good for the greatest number of people.  The idea is that the entire community prepares for possible disaster situations.  Pickhardt recalled the hurricanes, snowstorms, flooding, water crisis, hazardous materials, and other instances of disaster in Orange County this past year.

She asked listeners how many have preparedness kits available.  She said her office works to teach CPR and handling of traffic and crowd management.  She recalled that during Hurricane Florence, Chapel Hill hosted three community shelters with 500 beds total.  She noted that the county had undergone a 17-hour period without water due to a crisis.  Additionally, tornadoes of up to 115 mph winds touched down in White Cross and Hillsborough.

She said that the Orange County CERT works to provide mitigation strategies for people caught in these and other situations.  CERT hopes to increase resiliency on the part of county residents. Pickhardt said that anyone is eligible to take CERT training, which features fire safety, light search and rescue, disaster psychology, disaster simulation among other areas of instruction.  All this instruction is free, and the next series of trainings will occur soon.  She invited interested employees to contact her at 919.245.6138 to schedule training.

Jim Potts asked if employees can use community service leave for this training.  Katie Musgrove noted a parallel with disaster response courses required by the Red Cross.  She asked about CPR training.  Arlene Medder asked about CERT contact information for Durham County residents.

Interim Vice Chancellor for Workforce Strategy, Equity and Engagement Becci Menghini thanked the Forum for its work to make the University function better.  She noted an administration commitment to function as transparently as possible.  She added that the upcoming Campus Community Meeting on the Status of the State Health Plan will occur later in August.  Negotiations around the Plan will impact the Student Health Center.  Menghini did not have much to say about this topic at present.

Menghini recalled the impasse in the State budget which will affect staff salaries.  It was noted that the budget impasse will mean that last year’s budget will continue.  Menghini said that directives from State Budget and Management mean that there will be no new salary adjustments or new hires regardless of funding sources until further notice.  These restrictions include student and research hires.  UNC-Chapel Hill has held conversations with the UNC System Office to press for policy exceptions to accomplish necessary business.  Policy exceptions now allow adjustments and hires if budget is already allocated for this purpose and swaps of positions.  Menghini hoped that these restrictions will last only a short time, but she did not know when they would end.

Additionally, the Legislature last year designated University System employees a separate class from other State employees, designating $20 million in raises for faculty and staff of the entire University System.  These raises were not allocated across the board, in contrast with usual practice.

Menghini said that the proposed budget to the System Office designates $15 million this year for employee salaries, which would also not be distributed equally across the board.  She said that the budget impasse has left many questions still to be resolved.  She did not know what would occur with the budget impasse, but said that last year’s budget, without new spending, would stand in the meantime.

Chrissie Greenberg asked if non-critical Human Resources transactions have been phased out.  She noted the need to hire work-study students.  Menghini said that departments cannot create new positions under current rules.  Temporary positions and graduate assistant positions are generally allowed as they are paid from one-time funds.  Positions that are open and budgeted for are not affected, but departments may not create new positions from new funding under current rules.  Angenette McAdoo said that temporary salary restrictions apply to temporaries and post-docs.

Greenberg asked if departments can create and have temporary time-limited positions.  Menghini said that departments can pay salaries at last year’s rates.  She invited Greenberg to direct questions to Human Resources for further clarification.

Rose Thorp said that these restrictions mean that departments cannot raise graduate student salaries to current fellowship rates.  She said that this fact will be difficult to present to students needing raises.  Menghini hoped that salary adjustments would be retroactive.  Thorp noted downstream implications and tax liability questions for these students.  Menghini was aware of these concerns and urged departments to talk with Human Resources about these situations.

James Stamey asked whether last year’s bonus days and salary increases would remain in place for this year.  Menghini did not know about that.  Stamey asked if changes in the grievance policy will still take place.  Menghini said that she would follow up on this question.

Rocky Riviella noted the difficulty in telling faculty that they cannot hire employees with newly won grants.  Menghini said that these rules had come from the State Budget Office and apply regardless of funding source.  She granted that the National Institute for Health will not look favorably upon a grant that cannot hire support staff, which can lead to loss of value and loss of opportunities to compete for further research funds.

Clare Counihan asked if the new budget rule applies to honorariums.  Menghini said that it did not but encouraged departments looking to add salary to work with a Human Resources officer in this area.  Angenette McAdoo listed actions which now cannot take place.  Menghini hoped that these restrictions will end soon.

Menghini noted that the Equal Employment Opportunity office has worked to increase accessibility for students on campus.  Equal Opportunity Compliance in this area requires digital, physical and program compliance.  She said that the University has generally done a good job with its Digital Compliance program, encouraging changes to digital publishing by campus webmasters.  All publications must be accessible to all parties.

Regarding physical space compliance, Menghini noted concerns related to Athletics renovations.  ADA requirements are usually limited to new buildings, which must typically budget for these concerns.  However, the University often cannot provide financial support for access in older buildings where the need is greatest.

Menghini noted that the Office of Diversity & Inclusion’s THINKposium will occur Wednesday, September 4th.  She encouraged interested employees to register now.

Wellness Manager Jessica Pyjas announced that 359 people participated in 29 wellness classes in the last academic year.  She noted upcoming classes and trainings.  Lunchtime exercise classes will continue for a fee of $30/semester.  Workforce Strategy, Equity and Engagement will host tai chi courses on Tuesdays and yoga on Wednesdays.

Pyjas noted that employees joining Produce Box weekly delivery subscriptions will avoid membership fees if they join by August 18th.  Pyjas said that many great discounts are available from the website.

The Chair called for a motion to approve the consent agenda for August.  Jen DeNeal made this motion, seconded by Laura Pratt.  The motion was approved by acclamation.

Rose Thorp noted the next meeting of the Personnel Issues committee would occur August 27th discussing health care and family planning exceptions, as well as parental leave options at UNC.

Laura Pratt said that the Education & Career Development committee would meet after the current meeting.

The Chair noted the need for UNC System Staff Assembly delegates and a new Forum Treasurer.  The Forum would select people for these positions in September.

The Chair shared video honoring Jeff McQueen as the recipient of the Erskine Bowles Staff Service award.  McQueen thanked the Chair for this recognition noting his recent commitment to support in court a person in the federal deportation process.

The Chair was pleased to announce that the Forum would co-sponsor the Campus Community Forum on the State Health Plan on Monday, August 26th with the Faculty Council and the Carolina Black Caucus.

Arlene Medder moved to adjourn, seconded by Tiffany Carver.  The meeting was adjourned by acclamation at 11:33 a.m.

Respectfully submitted,


Matt Banks, Recording Secretary

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