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Judge OKs Cabell Huntington's certificate of need in St. Mary's merger

A federal judge affirmed the West Virginia Health Care Authority's decision to grant Cabell Huntington (W.Va.) Hospital a certificate of need to acquire St. Mary's Medical Center, also in Huntington, according to The Herald-Dispatch.

The state healthcare authority approved Cabell Huntington Hospital's certificate of need application in January 2016. Steel of West Virginia appealed the healthcare authority's decision in November 2016, contending the healthcare authority failed to consider "superior alternative" organizations to merge with St. Mary's. The company also claimed it had the right to obtain information regarding other parties interested in merging with the medical center.

In his decision, Kanawha County Circuit Court Judge James Stucky approved of the healthcare authority's decision to grant Cabell Huntington its certificate of need. He said the court must defer to the healthcare authority's "expertise" regarding the "superior alternatives" requirement. His opinion also noted Steel of West Virginia does not have a right to request other bid information because the acquiring party, Cabell Huntington, is not privy to that information either, according to the report.

Cabell Huntington representatives released an additional statement acknowledging that a certificate of need is no longer required due to a new state law signed by Democratic Gov. Jim Justice last week. House Bill 2459 "eliminates the requirement that a qualifying hospital proposing a merger or acquisition receive both a certificate of need and a cooperative agreement … to obtain antitrust immunity," according to the report. Cabell Huntington was awarded a cooperative agreement for the transaction last year.

The transaction must still be approved by the Vatican, as St. Mary's Medical Center is a Catholic institution.

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