The chief executive officer of a 120-bed hospital in Huntsville, Ala., last week said his company may lodge a protest with federal officials about the proposed merger of his two competitors, which together would control 89% of the market.
Last week, 578-bed Huntsville Hospital agreed to buy 323-bed Medical Center Hospital from Columbia/HCA Healthcare Corp., Louisville, Ky., for $55 million.
"It seems there's going to be a few questions that need to be answered," said Thomas M. Weiss, CEO of Crestwood Hospital. He said he will be discussing the matter with executives of his parent corporation, HealthTrust-The Hospital Co., a Nashville, Tenn.-based chain of 81 hospitals (See related story, p. 3).
Huntsville Hospital and Medical Center are just two blocks from each other in a county with 250,000 residents. Larger hospital referral centers in Nashville and Birmingham, Ala. are 200 miles away.
Huntsville is a public hospital owned by the Health Care Authority, an agency of the city. However, the hospital doesn't receive tax support.
"We have been the dominant provider in the market," said Burr Ingram, Huntsville Hospital's vice president of marketing. The acquisition will "give us the opportunity to develop more efficiencies." He said the hospital last week filed documents with the Federal Trade Commission seeking clearance for the deal.
Columbia said the Huntsville hospital doesn't fit into its strategic plans, and the authority made a good cash offer.
Mr. Weiss said the merger wouldn't affect Crestwood's expansion plans. The hospital recently received state approval to start providing obstetrical services with a $900,000 outpatient birthing center.