As of late last week, the Federal Trade Commission had yet to seek a court order barring the merger of the only two hospitals in Port Huron, Mich.
The inaction in the case prompted speculation that the two sides are discussing a possible settlement that would resolve the FTC's antitrust concerns.
Neither side, however, would comment on possible settlement talks.
Earlier this month, the FTC's five commissioners in Washington voted to authorize the agency to file an antitrust lawsuit against the Michigan deal because it would create a "virtual monopoly" of inpatient services in the market (Nov. 14, p. 4). The vote followed a six-month probe of the transaction.
Absent a settlement, the hospitals would either voluntarily scrap their deal or stay on course, forcing the FTC to seek a preliminary injunction in federal court. The injunction, if obtained, would postpone the deal until the antitrust charges are resolved.
Under the transaction, 264-bed Port Huron Hospital would merge with 119-bed Mercy Hospital under a new corporation owned by Mercy Health Services in Farmington Hills, Mich., and St. John Health System of Detroit.
St. John also owns 68-bed River District Hospital in nearby St. Clair, Mich.
The deal would place three of the four hospitals and 93% of the licensed beds in St. Clair County under common ownership.