The 1,500-member medical staff at Good Samaritan Regional Medical Center in Phoenix has settled antitrust charges stemming from an alleged scheme to boycott the hospital.
The Federal Trade Commission issued a proposed consent agreement in the 4-year-old case last week.
The agreement was signed by all parties in January, but the commissioners didn't vote on it until last month. It was approved by 2-1, with one commissioner not voting and another post vacant.
Dan Green, vice president for system development at Samaritan Health System, which owns Good Samaritan, described the agreement as "old news."
"We've made major strides in our relationship with the medical staff, and we're pleased this thing is behind us," he said.
The situation dates back to 1987, when Good Samaritan approved a plan to open a clinic in Phoenix through a joint venture with a select staff of about 100 physicians. The Samaritan Physicians Center, which opened in 1988, was designed to compete with a Mayo Clinic satellite that opened in Scottsdale, Ariz., in 1987.
However, the deal angered other staff physicians, who disapproved of the hospital financing a competing venture.
One way the excluded physicians expressed their displeasure was a vote of "no confidence" in the executives and governing board of Samaritan. The vote contributed to the resignation of David Reed as president and chief executive officer of the system (Oct. 27, 1989, p. 9).
According to the FTC, the physicians threatened a boycott of the hospital unless it pulled out of the clinic venture.
Fearing the loss of patient referrals, Samaritan began limiting and then froze physician participation and capital investment in the clinic in 1991 (July 8, 1991, p. 4). The FTC said Samaritan was responding to the threatened boycott.
Under federal antitrust laws, competitors can't engage in actions such as setting prices or threatening boycotts unless they form a single unit in which they share economic risk. The staff's actions and Samaritan's pullout deprived consumers of the benefits of physician competition, the FTC said.
The consent agreement bars the staff physicians from threatening or taking similar action against the hospital, clinic or any other provider.