Throwing another monkey wrench into the works, the seven-member Spartanburg (S.C.) County Council put off a scheduled June 10 vote on a controversial three-way hospital deal involving the county-owned Spartanburg Regional Healthcare System.
The council is expected to vote on the deal in two to three weeks, but nothing has been scheduled.
Putting a positive spin on the development, Spartanburg Regional spokeswoman Joan Hunt said: "The County Council is just being cautious, making sure they've heard from the community and others. We're proud of them for being so thorough."
Hunt said Spartanburg Regional remains optimistic the county ultimately will approve the deal after it reaches the same conclusion as the hospital, that the deal is in the best interests of the community. The systems have estimated a partnership could generate as much as $145 million in cost savings over the first five years of the arrangement.
But the proposed three-way partnership among Spartanburg Regional, the seven-hospital Greenville (S.C.) Hospital System and Anderson (S.C.) Area Medical Center would give the systems a near monopoly over acute-care hospital services in northwest South Carolina, critics charge. That, they say, would lead to higher prices and reduced access to care.
Critics of the deal, which include two competing hospitals, formed a coalition last month to block the partnership from forming. The group has filed two lawsuits in state court to stop the deal and is attempting to generate consumer and business opposition to the transaction through a public relations campaign (June 3, p. 20).
Executives of the three partnering systems say the coalition is a smokescreen for the two excluded hospitals, which fear greater competition from the three systems. The hospitals opposing the deal are St. Francis Health System in Greenville and Mary Black Memorial Hospital in Spartanburg.
Still, since the coalition formed on May 20, another seven businesses have joined the group. That brings to 11 the number of businesses represented by the Coalition for Quality Health Care.
The governing boards of Greenville and Anderson already have approved the deal, which would create an 11-member super board to oversee the operations of the three systems. Although each would maintain its separate ownership and assets, they would act as a single organization.