Rex Healthcare executives are enlisting the help of employees, physicians and patients as they try to fend off WakeMed's unsolicited offer to buy their hospital for $750 million.
In an email to doctors, Rex CEO David Strong urged them to tell patients who ask that they can support Rex by writing letters to the editor, and posting their views on personal blogs and social media sites such as Facebook or Twitter.
Also, "patients can email, write or call their legislators ... and explain that a takeover of Rex Healthcare would have significant negative consequences for our county and state," Strong wrote. The email also includes contact information for the Wake County delegation of the General Assembly.
"We believe any acquisition of Rex Healthcare would require legislation or some similar type of involvement from the state," Strong wrote.
WakeMed announced last week it is offering $750 million to buy Raleigh rival Rex from the UNC Health Care System. Rex and UNC officials have said that Rex isn't for sale, but the UNC Health board is meeting this afternoon to discuss the offer.
WakeMed officials argue that the money could help alleviate the state's financial deficit, either by providing a cash infusion for the UNC system or the state coffers. In proposing the hostile takeover, WakeMed also is seeking to stop aggressive expansion efforts by UNC Health in its home turf of Wake County.
Rex "isn't telling anyone what to say" but has had many inquiries from patients, staff and doctors about how they can help the hospital oppose a sale, said spokeswoman Lisa Schiller.
"People are generally not in favor" of a Rex sale, she added. "It's too early to tell if it will help, but it certainly can't hurt to have people speak what's on their minds."
Rep. Paul Stam, a Republican from Apex, and Rep. Deborah Ross, a Democrat from Raleigh, said they're hearing from constituents on both sides of the issue.
Ross said she's gotten several dozen emails and a few phone calls, but hasn't decided whether she supports WakeMed or UNC-Rex, or whether the legislature should really get involved at all.
"They really need to work things out, and [legislators] are taking a wait-and-see approach," Ross said. "No one has brought a specific proposal to the legislature. No one really knows what's being proposed for real."
WakeMed CEO Bill Atkinson met with several state lawmakers last week to give them a head's up about the Rex bid. WakeMed also is using its lobbyists, including former Raleigh Republican Mayor Tom Fetzer, to make its case with elected officials in the General Assembly.
The N.C. Medical Society board also met over the weekend to discuss the situation, but doesn't plan on picking sides, said CEO Robert Seligson.
"We want to make sure it's what's best for Wake County in the long term, and not just short-term health policy," he said. "We want to make sure it doesn't disrupt health care."
But the Medical Society, which represents about 11,000 physicians across the state, also doesn't want to see the state start selling assets simply to cover its deficit, Seligson said. "Will we sell Jordan Lake next? Is that good fiscal policy in the General Assembly?"