Bossier City, La., has sued Willis-Knighton Health System, claiming the Shreveport, La.-based system used unfair competitive tactics that devalued Bossier City's hospital by at least $10 million.
The Shreveport suburb sold its 168-bed Bossier Medical Center to Dallas-based Christus Health in June for about $28 million (May 10, p. 28).
In its suit, filed Aug. 19 in Bossier Parish district court, the city said it previously discussed a sale price of $42 million with potential buyers.
The nine-page complaint charges that starting in 1998 Willis-Knighton "embarked on a concerted campaign to weaken and eliminate Bossier Medical Center." Willis-Knighton owns Bossier's other hospital, 93-bed WK Bossier Health Center.
The antitrust complaint alleges restraint of trade, conspiracy to monopolize, unfair trade practices and interference with business relations. Specifically, the suit charges that Willis-Knighton:
* Induced physicians to enter employment contracts with Willis-Knighton although they already had contracts with Bossier Medical.
* Restricted Bossier Medical's growth by purchasing surrounding properties and refusing to lease vacant space.
* Placed ads in the Yellow Pages indicating that physicians still employed at Bossier Medical worked at WK Bossier Health Center.
* Obtained due-diligence information intended for bona fide bidders when it didn't intend to submit a bid.
Willis-Knighton denied the allegations through its attorney, Jim McMichael, who called the suit political.
"Apparently it's an attempt by those responsible for the mismanagement of Bossier Medical Center to cover up their misconduct," McMichael said.
He said Bossier Medical physicians initiated contact with Willis-Knighton about employment and later listed Willis-Knighton addresses in telephone books issued in early 1999 so patients could find them after they changed employers April 1.
McMichael said Willis-Knighton decided not to submit an offer for Bossier Medical because bid restrictions barred the buyer from terminating services. That would have prevented consolidation of services with WK Bossier Health Center, he said.
At least two other lawsuits in the past year have charged defendants with interfering with physician employment contracts. Earlier this year, Green Bay, Wis.-based Emergency Physicians sued St. Vincent Hospital and St. Mary's Hospital Medical Center, both in Green Bay (March 29, p. 29). Detroit Medical Center's Sinai Hospital, now closed, sued Providence Hospital and Medical Centers in Southfield, Mich. (Oct. 26, 1998, p. 20). As of last week, both lawsuits were pending.