Illinois health system asks court to dismiss antitrust suit

Carbondale, Ill.-based Southern Illinois Hospital Services is asking for dismissal of an antitrust lawsuit seeking to prevent it from acquiring Harrisburg (Ill.) Medical Center. 

In June, Southern Illinois Hospital Services announced its intent to buy Harrisburg Medical Center. If the two organizations close the deal, it would create a four-hospital system serving a 16-county region. Harrisburg Medical Center would join Southern Illinois Healthcare's three hospitals: Memorial Hospital of Carbondale, Herrin (Ill.) Hospital, and St. Joseph Memorial Hospital in Murphysboro, Ill. The state review board approved their request for a change of ownership in late July.

On July 29, Marion (Ill.) HealthCare, a multispecialty surgery center, sued both Illinois hospital networks to prevent the deal, arguing the combination of the two organizations "would substantially reduce competition in an already highly concentrated market, would harm the public and would cause antitrust injury" to the surgery center. 

"The acquisition would enable SIH to maintain and extend its monopoly power in the market for ambulatory surgery services," the surgery center contended in its suit. 

Now, Southern Illinois Hospital Services has filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit. In the Oct. 1 motion, the Illinois health system claims that Marion HealthCare uses "only hypothetical and conclusory allegations of harm."

Southern Illinois Hospital Services also claims that Marion HealthCare was the only party to object to the deal. Harrisburg Medical Center's board and management, community members and local politicians have supported the transaction, the defendant said. 

"In sum, this litigation has nothing to do with ensuring competitive quality healthcare for the residents of Southeastern Illinois who have been devastated by the pandemic," the motion to dismiss states. "Rather, this is solely one party’s attempt to use the antitrust laws to block a deal (after the fact) that it finds potentially unfavorable to its interests."

The health system is asking the court to dismiss the lawsuit with no opportunity for the plaintiff to appeal. 

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