Local News

UNC Health Care board mulls selling interest in Rex

Posted May 16, 2011 3:54 p.m. EDT
Updated May 17, 2011 12:53 p.m. EDT

— UNC Health Care's Board of Directors passed a resolution on Monday stating it is not in the best interest of the citizens of Wake County or the state to sell its interest in Rex Healthcare. 

However, the board said it will exercise its responsibility to consider the offer from WakeMed Health & Hospitals to purchase Rex Healthcare in Raleigh for $750 million. A special committee will be appointed to review it. 

WakeMed Chief Executive Dr. Bill Atkinson said Thursday that the health care system submitted a formal offer to Tom Ross, president of the University of North Carolina system, which has run Rex since it merged with UNC Health Care in 2000.

Atkinson said a merger would offer significant benefits to patients, doctors, taxpayers, the community and North Carolina, which is struggling to close a $2.4 billion gap in the state budget.

Dale Jenkins, chairman of Rex's Board of Trustees, said the offer "came out of the blue" and that he viewed it as "hostile."

"I do not believe that divesting UNC Health Care of Rex in order to generate one-time revenue for the state is in the long-term best interests of the people of North Carolina," Ross said Thursday. "It would damage our ability to fully carry out our (health care) mission."

"Given its fiduciary responsibility to the people of North Carolina, the UNC Health Care board will consider the offer carefully and conduct extensive due diligence," he added.

Rex spokeswoman Melody Hunter-Pillion said Rex is self-sustaining and doesn’t receive any money from UNC Health Care. Over the past two years, she said, it has also contributed $6 million to UNC's coffers.

A merger would likely add several facilities to the WakeMed system, which has facilities in Apex, Cary, Fuquay-Varina, Raleigh, Wendell, Zebulon and Clayton. Rex provides medical services in Apex, Cary, Garner, Knightdale, Raleigh and Wakefield.

Atkinson said he didn't anticipate any layoffs as a result of a merger, since health care is an expanding field.

Rex is willing to discuss collaborating with WakeMed in some areas, such as mental health care, Jenkins said, but UNC Health Care is "a better partner for Rex," adding that UNC is better equipped to help Rex develop innovative services in the future.

Although the decision rests with the UNC Health Care board, state lawmakers could also get involved by passing a bill that overrides any decision by the board.