St. Luke's Health System is refuting accusations that it has been steering patients away from Saint Alphonsus Health System.
The two health systems are in an ongoing court battle over the St. Luke's purchase of Saltzer Medical Group, the largest physicians' practice in the area.
After St. Luke's bought the practice in 2012, Saint Alphonsus and three other plaintiffs sued St. Luke's and Saltzer, saying the buyout was anticompetitive and would result in higher medical costs and insurance premiums and lower referrals to Saint Alphonsus.
Saint Alphonsus told U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill recently that its outpatient referrals basically, anything that doesn't involve a 24-hour overnight hospital stay from Saltzer physicians dropped by more than half since the St. Luke's deal went through.
The reason for sounding the alarm, Saint Alphonsus told the judge, is that St. Luke's has asked to keep Saltzer under its ownership while it appeals the judge's ruling that the buyout was illegal and should be dissolved.
But those allegations are "grossly misleading" and fail to mention Saint Alphonsus actions that make it harder for Saltzer doctors to send patients to Saint Alphonsus, lawyers for St. Luke's told the judge Friday.
St. Luke's has a "longstanding policy that its aligned physicians should choose where to refer patients and provide care based on the best interests of their patients," the lawyers wrote.
They said it would take time and money to investigate how Saint Alphonsus came to its latest conclusion about referrals, and that would do more harm than good.
"Moreover, it is hardly surprising that physicians who have been sued by Saint Alphonsus would not go out of their way to perform procedures at Saint Alphonsus," the lawyers wrote.