Dean: Rex a critical part of UNC Health Care

Posted September 22, 2011

— The dean of the University of North Carolina medical school told lawmakers Thursday that selling Rex Healthcare to WakeMed would damage UNC's ability to provide care and train physicians.

A House committee studying the potential sale of some of the state's more than 11,000 assets met for the first time Thursday morning, and WakeMed's $750 million bid to acquire Rex was among the assets discussed.

"We've always thought there are some things that the state can do better and some things the private sector can do better," said Rep. Edgar Starnes, R-Caldwell. "So, we're just looking at Rex Hospital and trying to figure out where it fits into that equation."

WakeMed made the offer for its crosstown Raleigh rival in May, saying the combination of the two health systems would improve access and lower costs by eliminating duplication of services.

UNC Health Care formally rejected the offer last month, but officials said they want to increase the cooperation between the Chapel Hill-based health system and WakeMed.

WakeMed Chief Executive Bill Atkinson has said offer to buy Rex remains on the table, and he hopes state lawmakers consider it.

UNC Health Care has operated Rex Hospital and its affiliated operations since 2000, and Dr. William Roper, dean of UNC's School of Medicine and chief executive of the health system, said separating the two now would hurt them both, which in turn would cost the state.

"Rex is not an isolated entity that can be peeled off or removed from UNC Health Care without harming the entire organization," Rope told lawmakers.

UNC would have a harder time training physicians without the clinical opportunities that Rex provides, he said. The hospital system also would take a financial hit since it wouldn't be able to achieve economies of scale as a smaller system and since Rex helps subsidize operations in Chapel Hill.

Rex Healthcare flag Lawmakers consider selling Rex Healthcare, other state assets

"Without Rex, the UNC Health Care system would be forced to rely on additional state funding, not less," Roper said, arguing that the Raleigh hospital doesn't receive a penny of state money.

The state provides the UNC system with $18 million a year to help offset the cost of treating patients on Medicaid or without health insurance. Roper said Rex also has shifted about $2 million a year to the UNC hospital system over the last decade.

"I believe North Carolina gets an outstanding return on its investment," he said, noting that state funding accounts for less than 1 percent of the hospital system's annual budget.

Although WakeMed has charged that Rex doesn't provide its fair share of care to low-income and uninsured patients, Roper said UNC and Rex provide $300 million combined in charity care a year. He said that is about double WakeMed's level.

UNC Health Care provides an estimated economic boost to the state of $5 billion a year, employs 12,000 people and attracts more than $400 million annually in research funding, he said.

"One-time cash (from a sale to WakeMed) would not equal the value we provide year in and year out," he said.

WakeMed officials are expected to meet with the House committee next month. Starnes said lawmakers might not make a decision on selling Rex for years.

"There are a lot of ways to make money, but you don't want to be penny-wise and pound-foolish," he said. "If you sell the hospital, it's one-time money, and it's gone. So, we've got to see, is Rex essential to the core functions of UNC Health Care."


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  • RNmom2 Sep 23, 2011

    I'm sorry scarlett2, but when was the last time you were employed at Rex? I have worked there for 15 years, and I can tell you we never turn any patients away. Rex is a top notch hospital, with patient care being our number one priority. And yes we advertise, but don't you see all the billboards on Capital Blvd., the Wake Med ones?? That's advertisement too.
    All I have to say is that healthcare is no place for a monopoly, and if it's all about patient care and what patients want, then let them have a choice and keep these to hospitals separate.

  • The Fox Sep 23, 2011

    [I believe that if Wake Med was to purchase Rex Hospital, the quality of care would be diminished.]+100

  • IBleedRedandWhite Sep 23, 2011

    I avoid all Wake Meds like the plague. Everytime I have been there it is at least a 4 hour wait. My wife went there to have emergency sugery and waited over 6 hours in the ER before being taken back. At the same time, there was a guy in so much pain from either a kidney stone or appendicitis that he couldn't even stand up. And he waited longer than my wife did.

    Went to Rex for a kidney stone and was checked-in and in a bed within an hour. The care received at Rex from my experiences is far superior to that of Wake.

    I hope Rex remains under UNC Healthcare

  • luv2surffish2 Sep 22, 2011

    unc should dump it.. the aetna ins co is fighthing with unc system and wont pay for patients..and rexx is one of the best hospitals in the state... patient care is fantastic

  • boogerntcsmom Sep 22, 2011

    I believe that if Wake Med was to purchase Rex Hospital, the quality of care would be diminished. It would take away the rights of the citizens of Wake and surrounding counties to choose which facility they would prefer to go for treatment. I firmly believe that the one time money gain that the state would make would cost taxpayers more in the long run. I choose to go to Rex because I believe that it is my right to go to a hospital where I will receive care quickly and efficiently where as when you go to Wake Med you are surrounded by numerous other patients and the wait time for treatment is horrendous. Why not ask state legislators and other appointed officials to take a 10% decrease in there income. They receive monies from other avenues in addition to their state pay. Being in a political or appointed position does not and should not entitle them to a rate of pay that costs the taxpayers when we are all having to take pay cuts or lose our jobs because of the economy.

  • scarlett2 Sep 22, 2011

    I have worked at..and been a patient.. at both facilities. Rex has spent millions on commercialism geared towards obtaining a certain type of patient and clientele, using taxpayers money. None of their facilities around this county are geared towards the poor, it doesn't matter what they may say otherwise about their paperwork/alignment with UNC. If you go to one of their urgent care/wellness centers/ambulatory surgery centers/physicians offices, etc. with no money or insurance, you will get turned away. I know patients who have been turned away.

    If I need healthcare, I would go to WakeMed. They have an outstanding ER, pediatric ER, trauma staff and heart center.

  • soyousay Sep 22, 2011

    Check out OBS3 - no windows, just a curtain for a door and you get to walk down the hall(if you are well enough to walk)and share a bathroom with several other patients, while you and your cohort of sardined patients are waiting days (and paying inpatient prices)before (if you are lucky enough) to be moved to an actual inpatient bed upstairs. Just another innovation in healthcare brought to you by Atkinson. And there is OBS1 and 2 and soon to be more.

  • RB aka Spirit Warrior Woman Sep 22, 2011

    scarlett2 - "WakeMed should be allowed to buy Rex. It would save the taxpayers money."

    Based on what stretch of the imagination?

  • RB aka Spirit Warrior Woman Sep 22, 2011

    Not a Rex fan in the least. They've misdiagnosed me twice in the ER, leading to excrutiating long-term pain that WakeMed finally got right and got treated, but people need to have a choice and the utility monopolies are quite enough for this area.

  • butterpie Sep 22, 2011

    Sounds like Rex is a bit of a cash cow, and the tug of war is about dollars. Rex's location and reputation keep the poor and uninsured away. I've been to both, and it seems that what you look for in a hospital is possibly the determining factor. Rex coddles you. Wake's efficiency and concern about treatment may take priority over making you feel good about it. Both are excellent.