Questions on Geisinger-Bloomsburg merger
To the editor: There are times when we come across an article in the newspaper that seems "not quite right." Fortunately, the truth has a way of leaking out to some and, with the power of the press, too many.
My recent "not quite right" moment occurred when I read the Press Enterprise headline of June 12 entitled "Geisinger salvaged merger at 11th hour." The merger in question was that between Geisinger and Bloomsburg Hospital. Though the merger occurred, it apparently never had to take place.
According to the Attorney General's civil action filed on June 7 in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pa., Community Health System (CHS), owners of Berwick Hospital, among others, submitted to Regis Cabonor, former CEO of Bloomsburg Hospital on April 20, 2011, an unsolicited written proposal to take over the hospital.
And here's the kicker: According to the filing, "It was only after the A.G. staff inquired about this proposal that a copy was distributed to the Bloomsburg Hospital System's own Board of Directors at a board meeting on Jan. 26, 2012."
So we learn that for nine months, former CEO Cabonor sat on an offer for a takeover of Bloomsburg Hospital. Meanwhile, the public believes Geisinger saved the hospital from closing and, in the meantime, some physicians and employees left Bloomsburg Hospital rather than become employed by Geisinger.
I became aware of the Attorney General's filing several weeks ago and some questions came to mind: What did Regis Cabonor gain by running down the financial clock of Bloomsburg Hospital so a takeover by Geisinger was ensured? Were any laws broken, or just the trust that the community placed in him?
What was the reaction of the Bloomsburg Hospital board members when they found out they were kept in the dark about a takeover offer made nine months earlier? Did they consider opening discussion with CHS, since the CHS offer was made nearly two months prior to the Bloomsburg board signing a letter of intent with Geisinger? Did the board consider removing Cabonor from his position?
Since the Attorney General's office filed the civil action for purposes of blocking the merger due to a claim of violation of state and federal antitrust laws, why did they cave in and approve the merger three weeks later? They didn't just "discover" the antitrust laws, and they knew about the offer by CHS six months prior to approving the merger.
What about Bloomsburg town officials? A for-profit entity taking over Bloomsburg Hospital pays property taxes. Remember last year's flood? Condemned housing won't pay taxes.
And finally, there's you. How do you feel about fewer choices for your medical care? I'll guess you'll know the answer if you find yourself driving to Berwick to go to the hospital.
Dr. Steve Karp
(Karp is a radiation oncologist who practices in Bloomsburg.)