A federal appeals court will decide in the next two months whether to affirm a lower court decision clearing the mergerlike partnership of the only two hospitals in Dubuque, Iowa.
At a hearing last week in the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Paul, Minn., the U.S. Justice Department and the hospitals-Finley Hospital and Mercy Medical Center-each presented arguments to a panel of three judges.
The Justice Department had appealed a ruling by U.S. District Judge Michael Melloy. Last October Melloy sided with the hospitals and said the consolidation would not represent an illegal concentration of market share in Dubuque because they competed regionally with hospitals 70 to 100 miles away (Nov. 6, 1995, p. 10).
At last week's appeal hearing, both sides weighed in on how practical it would be for patients to travel far distances for basic inpatient services. "The government tried to argue that the record showed people could not travel, and we showed evidence that people already traveled well outside of Dubuque for their healthcare," said David Ettinger, the hospitals' attorney.