You likely were as surprised as I have been to learn today that Saint Alphonsus and a physician-owned, for-profit hospital have joined together to sue St. Luke’s in an effort to stop or slow down our integration with the Saltzer Medical Group.
As you know, St. Luke’s integration with Saltzer is currently being reviewed by the Federal Trade Commission and the Idaho Attorney General’s office in response to a complaint filed with those agencies. We continue to cooperate with the agencies as they ascertain the facts. We are hopeful that they will recognize the benefits to patients and payers alike from this integration, and will determine not to challenge the transaction.
I want you to know that St. Luke’s would not pursue any path that we did not think was proper, legal, and in the best interests of the communities we serve. Be mindful that complaints to regulators and filing lawsuits are common competitive strategies in many industries, to deter or slow down competitors.
I also want you to keep in mind that Saint Alphonsus has left out a few facts that may be relevant to you, the courts, and the investigating regulators:
Change is difficult. It is not for the faint of heart. I am not surprised by some of the actions taken by our competitors, just disappointed.
Wouldn’t it be amazing if we all came together to work on a solution to fix health care instead of attacking those who come up with plans to do so? But we also knew that it would be hard for others to commit to make difficult changes in the midst of great uncertainty, and when health care providers have figured out how to succeed in this broken system that continues to reward volume over value.
St. Luke’s has been very transparent about what we are trying to achieve and why. I have written many articles, explained our strategies and initiatives on my blog for all to see, admitted our shortcomings and committed to improving and leading, and videotaped many of my talks and our ideas for all to see.
We have nothing to hide. We are proud of what we are doing and will not waiver from our vision and strategy, no matter how many hurdles our competitors want to throw in front of us. Our work is too important, and the people of Idaho are depending upon us.
A final word. Saint Alphonsus is a very good health system and they are doing good things for our communities. They have many dedicated employees and physicians, who are working every day to deliver great care to the people they serve. The Treasure Valley is very fortunate to have two great health systems in an area of this size. By having both of us, we push each other to be better.
It is easy to get mad at Saint Alphonsus for taking these actions and for driving up health care costs through this kind of litigation. Please keep in mind that these are the actions of the leaders of that organization.
In the meantime, we must remain focused on our important work and not let this action deter us, intimidate us, or distract us. Saint Alphonsus also said in a public statement that they believed St. Luke’s should allow the investigation by the FTC and AG to take its course. We wish that they had followed their own advice, instead of jumping into the fray.
David C. Pate, M.D., J.D., is president and CEO of St. Luke's Health System, based in Boise, Idaho. Dr. Pate joined the System in 2009. He received his medical degree from Baylor College of Medicine in Houston and his law degree from the University of Houston Law Center.