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Published: Tuesday, 10/12/2010

FTC seeking court order on changes at St. Luke's

BY JULIE M. McKINNON
BLADE STAFF WRITER

As part of an investigation into whether federal competition laws would be violated by St. Luke's Hospital's becoming part of ProMedica Health System, the Federal Trade Commission is seeking a court order to get needed information by Oct. 21.

That will give the FTC time to look over information and make assessments before ProMedica could start making changes at the Maumee hospital, such as eliminating services, according to documents filed last week in U.S. District Court in Washington.

The transaction closed Aug. 31, but there is a "hold-separate" agreement with the FTC in place until Oct. 30. Under that agreement, ProMedica and St. Luke's have to delay integration or consolidation of all services and staff until Oct. 30, unless FTC officials deem the relationship anti-competitive and seek a halt, according to court documents.

"The short period of time remaining before the hold-separate agreement expires requires the Commission to seek expedition of this petition," according to an enforcement motion the FTC filed last week.

The FTC is asking for an emergency order to enforce investigative subpoenas and civil investigative demands, which were issued Aug. 25 and due Sept. 24. It names St. Luke's, ProMedica, and ProMedica-owned Paramount Health Care in the enforcement motion filed last week.

The trio filed a response last week, denying they refused to comply with FTC requests and are working to produce information. There was no written agreement on requested information until Sept. 24, and the FTC is improperly trying to get an extension of the hold-separate agreement, their response said.

Monday, ProMedica said in a statement: "St. Luke's becoming a member of ProMedica will only serve to increase access to care, enhance clinical integration, and improve efficiencies in delivering care for the communities we serve."

The FTC - which argued the trio never sought an extension to the Sept. 24 due date - said it additionally has sought information from employers and health-insurance customers who could be at risk for increased health-care costs as a result of St. Luke's joining ProMedica. It also has contacted hospitals, consultants, and others, it said in court documents.

St. Luke's, the area's last independent hospital, has about 1,500 employees. Under the agreement with ProMedica, St. Luke's will retain its name, management, and local community board.

Contact Julie M. McKinnon at:

jmckinnon@theblade.com

or 419-724-6087.



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