Bakersfield Family Medical Center, Catholic Healthcare West End Legal Feud
Bakersfield Family Medical Center and Catholic Healthcare West agreed to a settlement last Tuesday, ending a "year-and-a-half legal battle" between Bakersfield's "largest hospital chain and a major independent physician association," the Bakersfield Californian reports. Under the confidential agreement, local CHW facilities -- Mercy, Mercy Southwest and Bakersfield Memorial hospitals -- will provide care for patients whose physicians are members of BFMC. The legal fight began in April 2000 after CHW and Bakersfield Memorial Hospital filed a lawsuit alleging that BFMC and Heritage Provider Network, BFMC's parent company, owed them $2.9 million in unpaid hospital bills. In June 2000, BFMC countersued CHW, accusing the company of "trying to put BFMC out of business" and violating "anti-kickback laws" with physicians. BFMC added more charges and defendants to the countersuit in April 2001, accusing CHW of providing management services to a BFMC competitor, Golden Empire Managed Care, at rates "less than fair market value." Phillip Buchanan, COO of BFMC and Heritage, said, "Everything has been resolved," adding that the settlement "means that we'll continue to develop a working relationship [with the CHW facilities] and look to advance that relationship in the future." Joyce Hawthorne, a spokesperson for the Southern California division of CHW, said, "We're delighted that we settled."
Meanwhile, a similar lawsuit between BFMC and San Joaquin Community Hospital will move to trial. In April 2000, San Joaquin sued BFMC and Heritage for $3.7 million in alleged unpaid hospital bills. BFMC countersued in June 2000 on charges "similar to those made against CHW" and then added additional defendants to the countersuit this past April. The Kern County Superior Court is scheduled to hear the case today (Terwilleger, Bakersfield Californian, 9/5).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.