A federal judge agreed to halt the acquisition of Rockford (Ill.) Health System by a competitor in the city, OSF HealthCare, until the Federal Trade Commission can resolve an antitrust challenge to the deal. In a 45-page opinion, U.S. District Judge Frederick Kapala granted a request from the FTC to order OSF HealthCare, which is based in Peoria and operates OSF St. Anthony Medical Center in Rockford, from acquiring the system that operates 305-bed Rockford Memorial Hospital. Kapala's order requires the two systems not to consummate their Jan. 31 affiliation agreement and to maintain the status quo until the FTC can conclude an administrative review of the deal, including all appeals. An administrative law judge for the FTC is scheduled to begin a hearing on the deal April 17. “After a thorough review, the court concludes that the FTC has demonstrated a likelihood of success on the merits, and that the equities weigh in favor of granting a preliminary injunction,” Kapala wrote. In a written statement, hospital officials called the ruling disappointing. “We maintain that combining two of Rockford's three healthcare systems into one is in alignment with the mandate presented by healthcare reform and is the best means to promote and ensure healthy competition in the marketplace,” the hospitals' joint statement says. “This affiliation makes certain that healthy competition from within will continue to drive the Northern Illinois healthcare marketplace.” The FTC's victory comes on the heels of its decision last month to order Toledo, Ohio-based ProMedica to divest a hospital acquired in 2010, a case likely headed to the 6th U.S. District Court of Appeals.
Late News: Judge blocks merger between OSF, Rockford Health
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