The five commissioners of the Federal Trade Commission voted unanimously not to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court an FTC lawsuit that seeks to block the merger of the only two private acute-care hospitals in Poplar Bluff, Mo.
However, the FTC can still pursue its administrative complaint in its opposition to the deal between 173-bed Lucy Lee Hospital and 186-bed Doctors Regional Medical Center, said David Pender, deputy assistant director of the FTC's healthcare products and services division.
When the commissioners voted Dec. 3, they also asked for opinions about pursuing the administrative case from lawyers in the FTC's healthcare products and services division, and Lucy Lee's parent, Santa Barbara, Calif.-based Tenet Healthcare Corp. The parties must respond by Dec. 17, and the FTC may reach a decision by year-end.
The FTC received a blow in July when a panel of the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis approved Tenet's proposed $40.5 million acquisition of Doctors Regional, overruling a federal judge's July 1998 decision to stop the deal.
Since then, Tenet and Doctors Regional have pursued the merger and plan to complete it by next week.
The closing price and merger agreement are nearly identical to those accepted two years ago, when the deal hit antitrust snags, according to Bennie Till, M.D., who served as acting administrator at Doctors Regional until a recently hired chief executive officer took the helm.
With Tenet's approval, Doctors Regional hired Kerry Noble as CEO this fall. He was most recently CEO at 120-bed Mineral Area Regional Medical Center in Farmington, Mo.
"We expect to see savings from economies of scale and expansion into more-sophisticated specialty areas like cardiac surgery and neurosurgery," said Till.
Tenet spokesman Lance Ignon declined to comment on the FTC vote but said the new hospital will be a great addition to Tenet. "(The merger) made sense several years ago and still makes sense today."