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Open Letter to St. Luke’s Family and Friends

By Dr. David C. Pate, News and Community
November 12, 2012

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:

  • Saint Alphonsus Health System owns the only hospital in Nampa, where they assert they are trying to preserve competition and choice.
  • All of the orthopedic and ENT departments and half of the general surgery department of Saltzer have joined Saint Alphonsus, which publicly stated in The Statesman that Saltzer Medical Group should remain independent after they knew the group had voted to affiliate with St. Luke’s.
  • Saint Alphonsus may want to give the impression that St. Luke’s is too big, but Saint Alphonsus' parent company in Michigan has announced a planned merger with Catholic Healthcare East which would then become the second-largest non-profit health care system in the United States.
I am very proud of what we are doing. I have said before that as we try to reach our vision of transforming health care to achieve the Triple Aim of better health, better care, and lower costs, we will come under attack from those who want the status quo and who currently benefit from the broken health care delivery system and fee-for-service reimbursement. In fact, if we weren’t getting resistance, we would know that we weren’t really transforming anything.

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.

 

About The Author

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.