BOISE - A southwestern Idaho hospital turf war has concluded with a federal judge ruling in favor of Boise-based Saint Alphonsus Regional Medical Center.
The ruling by U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill means St. Luke's Health System will have to split from a recently-acquired medical group in Nampa.
Saint Alphonsus was among plaintiffs behind a 2012 antitrust lawsuit meant to block the nearby St. Luke's Health System from buying the physician-owned Saltzer Medical Group.
Lawyers representing Saint Alphonsus had argued in U.S. District Court that St. Luke's acquisition of Saltzer's facility in Nampa threatened to monopolize a broad series of health care markets in Idaho.
Specifically, lawyers cited increased costs, reduced quality, and negative effects on Saint Alphonsus' business model.
St. Luke's CEO Dr. David Pate gave a detailed response to Friday's ruling via blog post.
Though our job is made more difficult by this decision, and though our competitors have, in the near term, achieved their goal of slowing our progress, our commitment and determination is not diminished, Pate wrote.
While the directions from the judge clearly state that St. Luke's must divest from Saltzer. It's not immediately clear how that would work.
However, Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden said in a statement that his office looked forward to working with both groups to carry out the order.
What compelled me to get involved in this important case is a commitment to ensuring that Idaho's laws protecting and promoting competition are upheld and that the marketplace is defended in a way to ensure the business climate in our state remains competitive, Wasden wrote.
Saint Alphonsus Health System President and CEO, Sally Jeffcoat, issued this statement regarding the ruling:
We are very pleased with today's ruling. Competition is important to the creation of a vital healthcare environment and fosters innovation, choice, accessibility and affordability. I completely agree with Judge Winmill's sentiment that improving the delivery of healthcare in the Treasure Valley does not require actions that 'run afoul of the antitrust laws and do not run such a risk of increased [healthcare] costs'. We will continue to work with all healthcare providers - including Saltzer Medical Group - to provide seamless access to healthcare for our communities.
Filing the suit was a difficult decision for Saint Alphonsus. However, we believe it was the right decision for our patients and the communities we serve. We will continue to stay true to our mission, and focus on delivering the highest quality and most efficient care close to home, Jeffcoat said.
Saltzer Medical Group issued a statement Friday afternoon saying they were disappointed in the ruling. It went on to say they are working closely with St. Luke's to review the decision to see if there are grounds for an appeal. And they will review their options and continue to look for opportunities on how to partner with St. Luke's to provide the best care possible for their patients.