Hoping to grease the path to a quick antitrust approval of their proposed merger, two Rockford, Ill., hospitals that have seen the government derail a merger in their city met secretly with antitrust enforcers from the U.S. Justice Department.
They did so in hope of clearing up any of the government's concerns before the hospitals file their official premerger notification documents with the feds for antitrust clearance.
Executives of 210-bed Saint Anthony Medical Center and 298-bed Swedish-American Hospital, two of Rockford's three hospitals, said they would file those documents with the government within several weeks. The hospitals announced their merger intentions earlier this year.
Hospital executives and their attorneys met with Justice Department officials on July 23 in Washington, the hospitals confirmed last week.
"We hope that our meeting might be a more efficient way to get approval," said Tanya Vanderbilt, an attorney with the Washington firm Epstein Becker and Green, which is representing the Rockford hospitals.
In 1988 SwedishAmerican's proposed merger with Rockford's third hospital, 401-bed Rockford Memorial, prompted the Justice Department to file the first-ever antitrust lawsuit aimed at blocking a merger of two not-for-profit hospitals.
In that case, Saint Anthony opposed the SwedishAmerican-Rockford Memorial merger and supplied information to the Justice Department to help make its case against the hospitals.
The hospitals called off the deal after losing in federal district and appellate court.
This time around, SwedishAmerican plans to merge into Saint Anthony's parent system, OSF Healthcare System. Peoria, Ill.-based OSF operates seven hospitals in Illinois and Michigan (April 14, p. 4).
Vanderbilt said the Justice Department didn't give any indication about whether it would clear the deal, investigate it further or file suit. "We told them the reasons this is a pro-competitive transaction," she said.
Combined, Saint Anthony and Swedish
-American control about 56% of staffed acute-care beds in Rockford, according to American Hospital Association data.
Rockford Memorial, meanwhile, is working on a deal with Mayo Health System of Rochester, Minn. Those negotiations are expected to be completed by the end of the year.