* Intracoastal sued over closure plan. Florida's attorney general last week sued Intracoastal Health Systems, West Palm Beach, Fla., to stop it from closing one of its two hospitals, 460-bed St. Mary's, also in West Palm Beach. The suit seeks a permanent injunction against closing the hospital and asks the court to appoint a new board of trustees for the facility. The attorney general argues that closing St. Mary's and consolidating services with Intracoastal's 341-bed Good Samaritan Medical Center, three miles away, would reduce healthcare services for poor and minority residents (Jan. 1, p. 22). Intracoastal has said consolidating services is the only way of saving both facilities.
* Judge rejects antitrust suit. A federal judge in New Orleans last week dismissed an antitrust suit against the public hospital district that owns 215-bed North Oaks Medical Center, Hammond, La. The decision may end a four-year legal odyssey that began when the Surgical Care Center of Hammond, better known as St. Luke's Surgicenter, charged that the hospital used its market power to exclude the center from contracts. The judge ruled that the surgery center could not prove its case. The facility had appealed earlier dismissals up to the U.S. Supreme Court, which refused to hear the appeal in November 1999.
* HMO enrollment drop is first since '73. HMO enrollment dropped by 400,000, to 80.9 million, between January 1999 and January 2000 -- the first annual decline since 1973 -- as the HMO industry continued to consolidate, according to a study released last week by InterStudy, Minneapolis. During the same period, 83 HMOs ceased operations for reasons ranging from mergers and acquisitions to outright failures. About 570 HMOs now operate nationwide.
* Healthcare district honored. Kaweah Delta Health Care District, Visalia, Calif., won the American Hospital Association/Baxter Allegiance Foundation's 2001 Foster G. McGaw Prize for excellence in community service. Kaweah, which operates a 258-bed hospital, was cited for its community outreach in reducing violence, strengthening families and reducing teen pregnancies. The district will receive a $75,000 cash prize. Three finalists -- Spectrum Health, Grand Rapids, Mich.; Yakima (Wash.) Valley Memorial Hospital; and Columbus (Ga.) Regional Healthcare System -- won prizes of $10,000 each. Last year's winner was Los Angeles County-University of Southern California Healthcare Network.
* President of consultants group retires. Vaughan Smith has retired after 30 years as president of the American Association of Healthcare Consultants, and the 220-member association has relocated its headquarters from Fairfax, Va., to Glenview, Ill., where it is being managed by the Center for Association Growth. David Stumph, the center's president, has taken on Smith's responsibilities as executive director of the consultants group.
* Survey business bought. Press, Ganey Associates, a South Bend, Ind.-based patient-satisfaction surveying company, last month acquired the survey business of Parkside Associates from Advocate Health Care, Oak Brook, Ill. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. The combined business is expected to process more than 7 million patient surveys annually and will be headquartered in South Bend with offices in Park Ridge, Ill.
* Assisted-living centers sold. Health Care Property Investors, a Newport Beach, Calif.-based real estate investment trust, last week sold seven assisted-living facilities for $51.6 million, four to a private operator and three to Regent Health Care, Portland, Ore. The purchasers had previously leased the facilities. Health Care Property Investors has sold $81 million in properties since last January, leaving it with a portfolio of 414 healthcare facilities in 43 states.