St. Luke’s Health System will not pursue a U.S. Supreme Court challenge to lower courts’ rulings that its purchase of Nampa-based Saltzer Medical Group violated federal antitrust laws.
“Ultimately, we did not think a further appeal was in the best interest of those who matter most to St. Luke’s — our employees, physicians, and the patients we collectively serve,” St. Luke’s CEO David Pate and board Chairman Skip Oppenheimer wrote in a letter to employees Thursday. “We respect the Ninth Circuit Court’s decision. We are meeting the Court’s order for separation and working hard with Saltzer to do so in a way that protects patient care and the employees who provide it.”
U.S. District Court Judge B. Lynn Winmill this week reinforced his order for the health-care businesses to separate. Winmill told St. Luke’s and Saltzer to provide the Federal Trade Commission and Idaho attorney general’s office their divestiture plans and a slew of information about the businesses.
Winmill said he allowed the deal to go through in 2012 because he relied on a promise from St. Luke’s and Saltzer that if the buyout was deemed illegal, they could easily unwind it.
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“All along, St. Luke’s wanted to advance our partnership with Saltzer because we felt strongly it would enhance the quality of care and access for patients in Canyon County,” Pate and Oppenheimer wrote. “Sometimes even when you try to do the right thing for the right reasons, it simply doesn’t work out. And we are truly sorry it didn’t.”
What is Saltzer’s future?
Pate told the Statesman in a late-June interview that the health care businesses were trying to figure out Saltzer’s future.
“We’re dealing with a lot of anxious people, [including] physicians who are anxious about what does this mean for their future?” he said. “We’re dealing with patients, many of whom have seen Saltzer for a long time and want to continue. ... Employees who are worried about, ‘What does this mean in terms of my job?’ The devil’s in the details, and we’re trying to work those details out.”
Why did St. Luke’s proceed during an investigation?
Pate also explained St. Luke’s rationale for going ahead with the Saltzer buyout when state and federal authorities were investigating it for antitrust violations.
“You really have to understand what was going on at the time,” Pate said. “This was all going to be moot if we didn’t do something to help Saltzer Medical Group survive. ... I know the government has the view that we brought this on ourselves, [but] I just have a different view.”
What is Saltzer’s future?
The FTC and the attorney general’s office have said St. Luke’s is preparing to keep some of Saltzer’s services that it acquired, while Saltzer is planning to break off into a stripped-down primary-care practice. Winmill this week said those concerns were valid.
Saltzer Medical Group President John Kaiser said Saltzer does not “want to buy back things that will not be essential to our core practice.”
Doctors who now work at Saltzer but are in those specialties Saltzer no longer wants to keep “will not be fired, they will not be released,” Kaiser said. “But we would like them to have the opportunity to go anywhere they wish,” including being hired by St. Luke’s.
Here is the full letter St. Luke’s sent to staff Thursday morning, provided to the Idaho Statesman by St. Luke’s:
To our St. Luke’s family,
St. Luke’s has served Idaho’s healthcare needs for more than 110 years. Every day, we work hard to make decisions that will enable us to care for generations to come. Today, we wanted you to be the first to know about an important decision made by our Board.
After careful consideration, we have decided not to pursue a Supreme Court appeal regarding our partnership with Saltzer Medical Group. Ultimately, we did not think a further appeal was in the best interest of those who matter most to St. Luke’s – our employees, physicians, and the patients we collectively serve.
We respect the Ninth Circuit Court’s decision. We are meeting the Court’s order for separation, and working hard with Saltzer to do so in a way that protects patient care and the employees who provide it. All along, St. Luke’s wanted to advance our partnership with Saltzer because we felt strongly it would enhance the quality of care and access for patients in Canyon County. Sometimes even when you try to do the right thing for the right reasons, it simply doesn’t work out. And we are truly sorry it didn’t.
We know this has caused a distraction. We are blessed to be home to the best caregivers anywhere – highly skilled, compassionate nurses, staff, and physicians who have committed their lives to making other people better. That’s what matters most.
St. Luke’s is nothing without the hard work and effort of the thousands of professionals who give it their all each and every day to serve our patients and their family members. Because of your outstanding work, we are ranked among the very top health systems in the nation. Not just in our region. Not just here in Idaho. But the best care anywhere.
Here’s just a sampling of what you have clearly earned on behalf of our patients:
Top 15 Health System two years running – Truven Analytics
Magnet® designation, three times, recognizing outstanding nursing care – American Nurses Credentialing Center
2015 Outstanding Patient Experience Award™ naming the Top 10 percent of all hospitals in the nation for patient experience – Healthgrades
And, somehow, in the public conversation about St. Luke’s lately, our focus and commitment to outstanding patient care seems to have been overlooked by some. We hope to change that.
We thank our boards, physicians, employees, and volunteers for your patience and your unwavering support and dedication to providing extraordinary care for our patients. No matter the difficulty or distraction, you never skip a beat.
We are proud to have fought the good fight for the people of Idaho. We are an Idaho-based, community-owned, and community-led health system, and Idahoans should never doubt that we will fight for them because our mission calls us to it. We’re laser-focused on doing right by the people in our community. By the same token, we won’t let a single issue distract us from our mission to improve the health of people in our region.
We are intensifying our focus and resources on our mission to make Idaho healthier. While St. Luke’s is home to the top care in the nation, we are singularly focused on the needs of our region. With healthcare changing like never before, we will continue to evolve by focusing on three things: 1) enhancing quality and access to care, 2) making care more efficient and less costly, and 3) investing in our employees and physicians to make their jobs easier and in our communities to make people healthier.
We want to do everything we can to ensure a healthier Idaho. And we can’t do it without you.
Thank you for all you do every day to make St. Luke’s the outstanding organization that it is.
Skip Oppenheimer, System Board Chair
David Pate, M.D., J.D.