A lawsuit has been filed against Portneuf Medical Center in Pocatello, Idaho contending the hospital prevented competition by controlling the area’s anesthesiologists and is overcharging patients.
The Idaho Business Review reported in a story published Wednesday that Terry Elquist filed the lawsuit that’s in federal court.
Elquist said the Anesthesia Associates of Pocatello faced pressure by Portneuf Medical Center to drop Elquist’s medical consulting business, called Rocky Mountain Medical Management, if he didn’t agree to stop attempts to start a surgical center and sign an agreement preventing him from opening a similar business within 100 miles.
Elquist says the hospital’s tactics forced the anesthesiology group to go along with the plan.
“The demand for a 100 mile co-compete radius of Pocatello was intended to be punitive and excessive and super-protection from competition as it would have prohibited a quality cost-efficient surgery center even beyond the borders of the state of Idaho,” the lawsuit says.
Portneuf Medical Center has asked that the lawsuit be dismissed, contending even if the anesthesiologists were pressured to drop Elquist’s consulting and management company, that didn’t stop him from starting another business.
“And nothing in the (lawsuit) explains how the end of (Rocky Mountain Medical Management’s) tenure as (Anesthesia Associates of Pocatello’s) office manager stopped Elquist from opening a surgery center,” hospital officials argue in the motion to dismiss the lawsuit. “There is no obvious causal connection, or even any clear relationship at all, between the two.”
Lowell Hawkes, Elquist’s attorney, said the anesthesia group included enough working anesthesiologists in the Pocatello area that there wouldn’t be enough remaining to work at a surgical center to be built by Elquist.
In a related matter, the Federal Trade Commission and Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden sued St. Luke’s Health System and the Nampa-based Saltzer Medical Group that St. Luke’s bought last year.
That lawsuit alleges the buyout violates laws that protect market competition.