By Taft Wireback
The North Carolina Division of Justice has given the general public a further two weeks to touch upon the proposed merger of Greensboro-based Cone Well being and Virginia-based Sentara Healthcare, hoping to listen to from a wider vary of neighborhood voices.
The deliberate merger would create a 17-hospital nonprofit system headquartered in Norfolk, Virginia, producing about $11.5 billion in annual receipts and with North Carolina services within the Triad and Pasquotank County, the place Sentara already gives companies.
N.C. Legal professional Normal Josh Stein initially sought public touch upon the proposed merger late final month with a deadline of April 14.
However state DOJ spokeswoman Laura Brewer mentioned this week that the window will stay open via Wednesday, April 28.
“We’re extending the deadline for feedback to ensure we hear from as many neighborhood voices as potential,” Brewer mentioned. “The following step is that our workplace is reviewing the transaction.”
Cone and Sentara introduced plans to merge in August 2020 with an unspecified goal date of “mid-2021.” They should move various ranges of scrutiny by the Federal Trade Commission, the Virginia Department of Health and Stein’s workplace.
Virginia has a regulation requiring such hospital mergers to bear a assessment that, beneath sure situations, might embody a “certificates of public benefit” overseen by state officers. When North Carolina repealed its “certificate of public advantage” regulation in 2015, the regulation gave the lawyer normal’s workplace the ability of assessment to look at transactions during which charitable firms equivalent to Cone Well being promote a majority of their belongings. However that energy is proscribed.
The FTC typically frowns on well being system mergers that scale back competitors and may end up in increased prices for shoppers. However the lack of geographic overlap between the Cone and Sentara networks ought to make FTC opposition much less probably.
Formal approval from Stein’s workplace will not be required for the merger to maneuver ahead. However he might file a lawsuit to cease the proposed merger if he and different Division of Justice officers decide it could hurt shoppers.
“There’s no set time for a way lengthy the assessment will take,” Brewer mentioned of Stein’s decision-making course of.
She mentioned earlier this week that the division to this point had obtained a complete of 33 feedback in regards to the merger from 32 individuals. Earlier than releasing these feedback to the general public, her workers is reviewing them to redact privileged or different personal data, mentioned Brewer.
When the deliberate merger was introduced final summer time, it envisioned Sentara CEO Howard Kern taking the reins as chief govt of the newly mixed group with the general company’s headquarters in Norfolk. Greensboro could be a regional hub of the newly shaped group with present Cone CEO Terry Akin remaining in place to supervise that sector.
Since then, Akin and former Cone Well being chief monetary officer Jeff Jones determined to depart, each saying that their selections had been private and never triggered by any dissatisfaction with the proposed merger.
Akin mentioned he would stay till the merger was full. Cone’s present chief working officer, Mary Jo Cagle, has been tapped to succeed Akin and grow to be each the primary girl and the primary doctor to steer the group.