WakeMed announces bid to buy rival hospital

Photo taken by ABC11 Photojournalist Jim Schumacher

May 12, 2011 10:54:55 AM PDT
Officials at WakeMed Health & Hospitals made a major announcement Thursday morning.The private health care provider submitted an official offer to buy rival hospital Rex Healthcare from the UNC system.

The offer, which WakeMed officials say has been under development for several months, was authorized by a unanimous vote of the WakeMed Board of Directors last week.

In an offer letter from Board Chair Billie Redmond and President & CEO Bill Atkinson submitted Thursday to the President of The University of North Carolina Thomas Ross, WakeMed offered $750 million toward the purchase of Rex Healthcare.

Atkinson has also discussed the deal with state lawmakers.

Officials say there are numerous reasons for making the offer, stating that the combination of the two systems would offer significant benefits to patients, physicians, taxpayers, the community, as well as the state.

"Our sole reason for coming to the table is about efficiencies and the economy our citizens are facing," said Atkinson during a press conference.

However, the takeover bid is being made despite opposition expressed by the directors of Rex Hospital.

Following WakeMed's public announcement, officials at Rex Hospital held a press conference of their own to make it clear that they are not for sale.

Rex's board of trustees chairman said the bid came as a shock, even though Rex, UNC and WakeMed have discussed collaborating efforts in the past, he says the "hostile" bid goes far beyond that.

"There was never any mention of a potential offer that might be coming our way from WakeMed, so yeah know I have to characterize it as a surprise, and I would probably - in the corporation world - use the term hostile," Dale Jenkins said.

Jenkins went on to say that while UNC will at least discuss the offer, they do not feel it is right course of action.

"I don't believe that this is in the best interest of Rex, the residents of Wake County, and the best interest of the state of North Carolina," Jenkins said.

According to Rex's website, it is a private, not for profit health care system. But WakeMed executives say Rex and its parent company, the state-owned UNC Health Care System, have used predatory efforts to compete in the Wake County Medical market.

"We think that Rex is a part of the government and so it is a viable idea to consider even if this is something that is not approved, to dismiss the idea without consideration we think is a mistake," Atkinson said.

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