Congratulations. You have managed to accomplish what many thought to be impossible. You have taken a situation that was truly a David-over-Goliath win by a small rural hospital over the Federal Trade Commission and turned it into a negative story.
In your reporting on the case of the FTC vs. Ukiah Adventist Hospital (April 25, p. 18), you painted the story as a loss for the hospital industry instead of the fact that a small hospital-instead of rolling over and playing dead at the unfounded charges by the FTC-stood up to the agency and won. This was not a loss for the industry. Out of this expensive case and the attention it received, the industry now has some reasonable guidelines for future mergers and consolidations of small hospitals.
We could have given in to the criticism of some so-called experts in healthcare who urged us to drop the case or ridiculed us for pursuing the matter. Do you think that the new guidelines would be in place today if we had dropped our case? I don't want to blow our own horn inappropriately, but it was time that someone stood up to the bureaucracy. The end result-a unanimous vote for dismissal-proves we were right, and that the attention this case received was not out of line. The fact that the decision was worded as it was, and that the case was finally settled, was a major-if much delayed and costly-victory.
Whether you agree or not, this case did have an effect on others who were considering mergers but were afraid to get caught in the FTC's well-camouflaged and unpredictable trap. It was-and still is-an excellent example of federal antitrust policy gone awry.
David defeated Goliath, and you got caught up in thinking that hospitals are going to miss the giant. You missed the whole point.
Ukiah (Calif.) Valley Medical Center