HOSPITAL SALES: Group Wants Moratorium In Illinois
A loose coalition of community advocacy groups, legislators and members of the Chicago Department of Public Health "are expected" to request today a temporary suspension of all hospital sales in Illinois, until public hearings can be held on various pending deals. The move has been spurred largely by Columbia/HCA Healthcare Corp.'s decision to sell "eight facilities in the Chicago area," the Chicago Tribune reports. Groups such as the Campaign For Better Health Care, the Service Employees' International Union Local 73, Community Catalyst of Boston and the Illinois Nurses Association are seeking "public hearings and greater scrutiny" before transactions are approved to ensure that services will remain the same and "levels of charity care and other community benefits are also preserved." Currently, hospital sales require only "a signature from the chair of the state Health Facilities Board."
Leaders of the movement feel that hospital owners and health care companies are given too much freedom in business deals relative to the community's input. "Under current law, there's little oversight of hospital sales and no opportunity for community oversight," said Jim Duffett, director of the Campaign for Better Health Care. Two bills that would have amended the regulatory process for hospital sales failed in committee during the past legislative session, and an emergency rule that forced sales to be reviewed by the entire board expired in February.
A Matter Of Perspective
Steve Wakefield, a board member of the Chicago Department of Public Health, said, "We do planning as a city, and those plans often involve where hospital services should be. We're not opposed to the sales, but we feel there should be public discussions about their impact." Duffett echoed these sentiments, saying, "We feel we have been seeing a feeding frenzy of all these mergers. The community has to be involved in whether hospitals drop a service or are making a change rather than deals being struck on LaSalle or Wall Streets." The Illinois Hospital and Health Systems Association, however, says that additional oversight is unnecessary. Spokesperson Karen Porter said, "We agree that hospitals need to be accountable to the community they serve when they change hands ... but we think these things can be done, and are being done, voluntarily. We don't see a need for a full-scale government review" (Japsen, 7/29).