Exeter Health Resources, the parent company of Exeter Hospital, and Wentworth-Douglass Hospital in Dover are planning a campaign aimed at winning public support for their proposed partnership with Massachusetts General Hospital after the state Attorney General’s office recently opposed the deal.

The hospitals announced the public engagement effort Thursday in a joint statement touting what they insist is an affiliation that will benefit the communities they serve.

The effort will include using print, radio and digital means to provide information and ways for the public to contact elected officials.

In September, the Charitable Trusts Unit at the Attorney General’s office called the proposed affiliation “unlawful” because it would likely decrease competition and increase the cost of health care to patients.

The decision followed a lengthy review by the office’s Consumer Protection and Antitrust Bureau.

“It is critical that we have a dialogue about how we could address their concerns. There is too much at stake for future patients on the Seacoast of New Hampshire,” Mark Whitney, vice president for strategy at Exeter Health Resources, said in the statement.

The proposal, which is undergoing federal regulatory reviews, would create a new New Hampshire-based nonprofit corporation to provide health care to patients on the Seacoast.

The corporation would become the parent company of both Exeter Health Resources and Wentworth-Douglass. The new parent would be part of Massachusetts General Hospital and would be managed by leadership from the three hospitals.

Wentworth-Douglass became a subsidiary of Massachusetts General Hospital in 2017.

According to Gregory Walker, the president and chief executive officer at Wentworth-Douglass, the hospital has reduced costs for supplies and pharmaceuticals, realigned staff and added more than 300 new positions.

“We have added more highly specialized care in many clinical areas, including cardiology and neurology. In addition to providing better care for our patients, this affiliation will create more jobs and economic opportunities for the entire Seacoast region,” he said.

The three hospitals plan to continue moving the proposal forward to gain approval from the Federal Trade Commission.

In their statement, the hospitals stressed the importance of long-term sustainability of not-for-profit health care, a commitment to new clinical services, access to specialty care at Massachusetts General Hospital, and expanded services for mental health and substance use disorder treatments.

“Our goal is to work to bring specialty care services to the people of New Hampshire, ensuring their access to enhanced, quality care close to home. We have a successful relationship with Wentworth-Douglass Hospital and we hope to continue our commitment to enhancing health care in the Seacoast region through this affiliation with Exeter Health Resources,” said Dr. Peter L. Salvin, president of Massachusetts General Hospital.

Friday, October 23, 2020