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HEALTHTRUST STILL PURSUING A PURCHASE OF HOLY CROSS

SHARE HEALTHTRUST STILL PURSUING A PURCHASE OF HOLY CROSS

The Federal Trade Commission and HealthTrust Inc., the for-profit company that wants to buy the Holy Cross hospital system in Utah, are negotiating in hopes of reaching an agreement that would allow the sale to proceed.

In March, FTC officials said they were prepared to file suit to halt the proposed sale on grounds that the acquisition "would significantly decrease competition for inpatient acute-care hospital services in the Salt Lake City area," according to FTC staff member Brenda A. Mack. The five-member Federal Trade Commission voted 3-1 in favor of the action if the sale were imminent.Under the proposed sale, HealthTrust, based in Nashville, would acquire Holy Cross Hospital, Salt Lake City; Holy Cross Jordan Valley Hospital, West Jordan; and St. Benedict's Hospital, Ogden. HealthTrust already owns six hospitals in Utah, two of which compete with the Holy Cross chain.

Since the FTC action, Holy Cross - which is owned by the Catholic Church - and HealthTrust have extended their deadline for the sale. Meanwhile, talks have been continuing with the FTC.

A possible resolution of the impasse might be for HealthTrust to immediately dispose of Holy Cross Hospital, which is the biggest acute-care hospital that it would acquire in the Salt Lake area. But parties involved in the talks refused to give details to the Deseret News.

"They're still negotiating," said Paula Lovell of Lovell Communications, Nashville, which handles public relations for HealthTrust.

"There's been no final decision made yet, and there's nothing to announce yet. The outcome of the negotiations will be announced by the Federal Trade Commission, and that's basically the first time that there will be any announcement."

No agreement has been finalized, she said on Tuesday.

Asked when an announcement will be made, she said, "Obviously, we hope that it's imminent, but I can't tell you that I know when it will happen."