DOVER — A poll released Wednesday shows that Seacoast residents support the proposed merger between Dover’s Wentworth-Douglass Hospital, Exeter Health Resources and Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.
WDH was acquired by Mass General through a separate transaction that started three years ago, and Exeter Health Resources has been working with Mass General’s oncology program for 10 years. Officials at the three hospitals announced in May 2018 they had signed a letter of intent to form a new regional nonprofit corporation. That corporation would be the subsidiary of Mass General and would serve as the parent to WDH and Exeter Health Resources.
Gregory Walker, CEO of WDH, said no survey was performed before the Mass General acquisition three years ago, but that with three hospitals now involved, the hospitals wanted to get a sense of the community’s reaction.
The University of New Hampshire Survey Center was asked to perform the poll, which was paid for by the hospitals. During a time span of a week and a half, 600 people were asked about their perspective via random phone calls to house lines and cell numbers listed in the region.
Andrew Smith, director of the UNH Survey Center, said the poll found no strong opposition to the affiliation.
“A lot of those fears about losing your local hospital aren’t there anymore,” Smith said. “For me, the thing I thought was most important is that all three hospitals are well known and well respected.”
As more medical providers merge, consumers now understand that an affiliation with a major hospital may mean more specialized care at their hometown facilities, Smith said.
Two-thirds of respondents reported they were more positive about the proposed affiliation after learning about the potential for Mass General specialists to provide expanded specialized medical services locally, according to a press release.
More than half of respondents believe the proposed affiliation will improve the quality of care provided at WDH and Exeter Hospital, according to a press release.
On Wednesday, Walker said in addition to liking more access to specialized programs for cardiology, neurology and behavioral health, the survey respondents saw an economic benefit of having an affiliation with Mass General.
“I wasn’t sure how favorably this would be viewed by the community,” Walker said. “The community found this to be very favorable to the economy.”
It is easier to attract businesses to an area where there is high quality health care, he said.
He said that because WDH and Exeter Hospital are 22 miles apart, they will not need to shut down any local services after the merger, which is currently being reviewed by federal and state regulatory boards.
Kevin Callahan, president and CEO of Exeter Health Resources, said the survey affirms that the public recognizes and supports the hospital’s vision of providing enhanced, expanded and advanced care to the Seacoast communities.
There will be a public forum to learn more about the proposal next month. Details have not yet been released.