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Hospitals agree to terminate deal amid antitrust probe

by KAYE THORNBRUGH
Staff Writer | May 16, 2024 2:41 PM

COEUR d’ALENE — Kootenai Health and Syringa Hospital and Clinics have agreed to terminate their management services agreement and sever ties following an antitrust investigation by the Idaho Attorney General's office.

The probe examined whether the hospitals' arrangement, which gave Kootenai Health access to Syringa's competitively sensitive information, may have violated state competition laws. In 2020, Kootenai purchased St. Mary's Hospital in Cottonwood, 15 miles from Syringa. Attorney General Raul Labrador said the merger raised concerns about diminished competition in Idaho County. His office launched an investigation in 2023.

Under a consent decree reached with the attorney general’s office, Kootenai must terminate Syringa's CEO Abner King and end all existing collaborations between the two entities, except where approved by the state. The decree also bars the hospitals from anticompetitive labor agreements or exchanging non-public employment data.

While both hospitals disputed the allegations, Kootenai Health spokeswoman Kim Anderson said they decided to dissolve the 2017 management deal "to eliminate any potential concerns." She said the split was amicable and that both entities remain financially stable providers.

The agreement had allowed Kootenai to employ Syringa's leadership, include it in group purchasing, and offer training and policy assistance. 

“My office is concerned about the trend of consolidation within healthcare markets in Idaho,” Labrador said in a news release. “We are committed to enforcing the laws that protect and promote fair competition in Idaho and we are pleased that we reached a resolution addressing our current concerns.”