By Mark Tosczak

A senior Wake Forest Baptist executive, Dr. James Hoekstra, will become the new president at High Point Regional Health in September, as the Winston-Salem based health system exerts its control over the hospital and its associated operations.

An emergency cardiology specialist by training, Hoekstra is credited with developing a network of 14 emergency rooms across the region that are managed by Wake Forest Baptist Health. He’s also helped integrate Cornerstone Health Care, a large, multi-specialty physician practice based in High Point, and Wilkes Medical Center into the Wake Forest Baptist system in the last few years.

“He already knows the community and he’s committed to the continued success of the health system through the growth of clinical programs that improve the health of those in the High Point area and beyond,” said Dr. Julie Ann Freischlag, Wake Forest Baptist CEO and dean of Wake Forest University School of Medicine.

UNC Health Care acquired High Point Regional in 2013. But last October, Wake Forest Baptist announced plans to acquire High Point Regional from UNC. The two systems signed a final agreement in March. Financial terms of the deal haven’t been disclosed.

High Point Regional’s current president and CEO Ernie Bovio and Hoekstra will work together over the next few months to manage High Point Regional’s transition from UNC to Wake Forest Baptist.

The news about Wake Forest Baptist acquiring High Point Regional came last year as UNC and Charlotte-based Atrium Health were in negotiations to create a joint operating company to  operate all of the hospitals and clinical facilities the two organizations own. UNC has said the High Point Regional deal was separate and unrelated to their talks with Atrium, which fell apart earlier this year.

For patients, one potential major change that could come with Wake Forest Baptist’s ownership is a shift in referral patterns. Small and mid-sized hospitals like High Point Regional frequently refer patients to large academic medical centers for more specialized, intensive care.

High Point Regional is about 20 miles from Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, compared to about 60 miles from UNC Hospitals in Chapel Hill.

In the last few weeks, Wake Forest Baptist has been scrambling to deal with the fallout from revelations that its pathology lab made errors that resulted in a number of patients undergoing unnecessary surgery and treatment. And in at least one case, treatment for a patient who had cancer was delayed because of an errant pathology report.

As of late March, the hospital was still reviewing thousands of pathology reports to determine if any other patients have been affected. Inspectors from the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid also found problems with training, equipment maintenance and supplies in the hospital’s lab.

Besides the main hospital in High Point, High Point Regional has 40 other clinics and treatment centers in Guilford, Randolph, Davidson and Forsyth counties. The acquisition will grow Wake Forest Baptist’s footprint in Guilford County, the largest of the Triad counties by population.

Three health systems — Wake Forest Baptist, Winston-Salem-based Novant Health and Greensboro-based Cone Health —  dominate the region.


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Mark Tosczak has worked as a writer and communications professional for more than 20 years, including stints as a newspaper reporter and editor, think tank communications director, marketing agency vice...