A federal antitrust investigation of a proposed "partnership" between the only two private hospitals in Asheville, N.C., has entered its sixth month.
The hospitals unveiled details of the deal last week, displaying confidence it will go through. The hospitals are 386-bed Memorial Mission Medical Center and 288-bed St. Joseph's Hospital.
They're the only two private acute-care hospitals in Asheville and surrounding Buncombe County, N.C. A 315-bed Veterans Affairs hospital is located in Asheville. The city also has an inpatient psychiatric hospital and an inpatient rehabilitation hospital.
In March, the hospitals signed a letter of intent to pursue an unspecified partnership deal. They voluntarily notified the Justice Department, which began an antitrust probe in July.
In the past 18 months, the Justice Department has developed a reputation for going easier on hospital mergers than does the Federal Trade Commission.
The hospitals said they will file required pre-merger notification documents as early as next month. The Justice Department will then have 30 days to clear the deal, challenge it or request more data.
The hospitals want to create an as-yet-unnamed not-for-profit corporation, governed by a 17-member board of directors. The hospitals would maintain separate corporate identities, but the new company effectively would operate the facilities. It would handle strategic planning, budgeting and finances, and the coordination of new and existing services.
The hospitals released an analysis of potential savings. They claim the deal would generate as much as $75 million in economic efficiencies in the first five years.