Douglas M. Cook, Florida's top healthcare official, made it clear last week where he stands on the issue of Columbia/HCA Healthcare Corp. acquiring more than the 60 hospitals it already owns in the Sunshine State.
"We have concerns that further concentration of control of beds in the hands of one competitor will not serve the interests of consumers in the marketplace," Cook wrote in a May 29 letter to Florida Attorney General Bob Butterworth.
Cook, director of the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration, requested and received Butterworth's promise to mount an antitrust challenge if Columbia acquires scandal-ridden, 202-bed Cape Coral (Fla.) Hospital. The not-for-profit is considering bids from Columbia and Lee Memorial Health System, Fort Myers.
Columbia owns more than 25% of the hospitals in Florida, including three of the five hospitals in Lee County, where Lee Memorial and Cape Coral operate.
Cook went on to state he has confidence that Lee Memorial would not exercise market power in Lee County even though it already operates more than 50% of the county's beds. He cited state data that indicate Lee Memorial's prices are the lowest in the county.
"Their (Lee Memorial's) market power would not be exercised in a manner harmful to the marketplace," Cook wrote.
"Columbia/HCA, however, as a for-profit entity, does not share those defenses," he wrote.
Chicago healthcare executives were on prominent display last week with the world's most photographed woman.
Diana, the Princess of Wales, blew into Chicago to raise $1.5 million for cancer research. During three days of big-ticket receptions and a ball at the Field Museum of Natural History, the princess stopped by Robert H. Lurie Cancer Center, an affiliate of Northwestern Memorial Hospital.
Flanked by Northwestern President and Chief Executive Officer Gary Mecklenburg and Anne Bolger, senior vice president of Northwestern's hospital operations, Diana toured the hospital's hospice and palliative-care unit. Hospice Director Charles Von Gunten, M.D., briefed the princess on the 12-bed facility and led the tour.
Northwestern will get one-third of the money raised during the princess' visit. The remaining proceeds will go to London's Royal Marsden Hospital, which has the largest comprehensive cancer center in Europe, and Gilda's Club, a cancer support network for women with ovarian cancer, named after the late comedian Gilda Radner.
Diana also stopped by Cook County Hospital to take a tour of the 81-year-old facility with Ruth Rothstein, the hospital's director and chief of the Cook County Bureau of Health Services.
It's known as the Oscars of medicine, the place where Hollywood and healthcare converge.
The International Health and Medical Film Festival, started 21 years ago to recognize quality medical education productions, has become a celebrity-studded scene.
"Freddies," bronze statues named for the contest founder, the late Fred Gottleib, M.D., are presented at a black-tie, televised ceremony, and past speakers have included Chevy Chase, Tipper Gore and the late Helen Hayes.
The national advisory board boasts producer/director Robert Wise, ABC "Good Morning America" medical correspondent Nancy Snyderman, M.D., and former Surgeon General C. Everett Koop, M.D.
Now, the festival hopes to boost its exposure another notch and relieve the burden of constant fund raising with its recent sale to the American Medical Association.
The event will be titled the American Medical Association's International Health and Medical Film Competition.
The event's executive producer, John Zaccaro, said he approached the AMA at the suggestion of one of the festival's board members, Glaxo Wellcome President Robert Ingram. "We've needed a marquee player to further credential us," Zacarro said.
Until 1991, the festival was operated by John Muir Medical Center in Walnut Creek, Calif.
This year's festival will be held a bit later than usual because of the sale, from Nov. 14 to 16 in San Francisco. Entries must be postmarked by July 15.
Loyola University Medical Center in Maywood, Ill., decided to celebrate the full year that Chicago's Cardinal Joseph Bernardin has been free of cancer by renaming its 120,000-square-foot outpatient cancer facility after the leader of the Roman Catholic archdiocese of Chicago.
Bernardin had surgery to remove portions of his pancreas and kidney at Loyola on June 12, 1995. After the surgery, he was given a 25% chance to live one to five years.
Renaming the cancer center is yet another example of Loyola latching onto Bernardin's high profile to stay competitive with Chicago's other academic medical centers. The Roman Catholic facility also used the renaming ceremony to kick off an effort to raise $20 million for cancer research.
Bernardin has actively encouraged the Chicago area's 20 Catholic hospitals to come together. With Loyola as its hub, seven Chicago-area Catholic hospitals last year formed Unified HealthCare Network.
"Having a prominent worldwide leader like Cardinal Bernardin lend his name to the Loyola cancer center recognizes our efforts to build a world-class cancer program," said Anthony Barbato, M.D., the medical center's president and chief executive officer.