COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Toledo-area elected officials said Tuesday that they are seeking Gov. Mike DeWine's help in protecting the future of the University of Toledo Medical Center, amid accusations that a rival health system is unfairly poaching its staff.

Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz emphasized the teaching hospital's importance to the region at a news conference from area legislators.

"This hospital is vital to the health of our citizens and our economy,'' Kapszukiewicz said. "It offers top-tier medical care and it provides our region with good-paying, family-sustaining jobs.''

At issue is an affiliation agreement between the university's medical school and ProMedica, a nonprofit, Toledo-based health system that critics say is siphoning off the university medical center's doctors — many of whom perform lucrative services — for its own hospitals. Some of those hospitals compete with UTMC, which is struggling financially.

"There are growing concerns that this agreement positioned ProMedica for a hostile takeover of UTMC,'' said state Sen. Teresa Fedor, a Toledo Democrat.

Fedor and state Rep. Michael Sheehy, another area Democrat, sent a letter to the Republican governor asking him to closely examine recent news reports detailing potential conflicts of interest by two former University of Toledo trustees.

It also references a 2015 letter in which DeWine, then Ohio attorney general, informed the medical center that his office didn't have immediate antitrust concerns about the affiliation between the two health institutions — but that he would step in "should the affiliation prove to be anticompetitive in purpose or effect."

ProMedica spokeswoman Tausha Moore said the affiliation agreement was decided by a public competitive bidding process. An expert outside consultant recommended ProMedica's proposal after a careful review, and the trustees unanimously approved the selection, she said.

Moore described it as no different from any other ProMedica partnership agreement.

"It was done thoughtfully, transparently, and with the community's best interest in mind," she said in an emailed statement. While not addressing the poaching allegations directly, Moore said, the goal of the affiliation was "to positively transform medical education in our community and position the college and students to achieve their fullest potential — and that is happening."

The University of Toledo faces a deadline of June 10 deadline to accept bids to buy, lease or manage its medical center.

Former Toledo Mayor Carty Finkbeiner, a leader in the local Save UTMC coalition, called for a forensic audit of the medical center books.

"This was a money maker for the community, creating jobs and providing vital public healthcare services to Toledo and Northwest Ohio," he said. "How did this great institution suddenly become a money loser? We need answers and we need them now."

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