FTC Subpoena Puts Mercy Hot Springs Sale to Capella On Shaky Ground

The Federal Trade Commission has issued at least one subpoena involving an investigation into the planned purchase of Mercy Hot Springs by Capella Healthcare of Franklin, Tenn.

We don’t have too many details involving what the FTC is looking for by questioning health care officials.

But if the FTC is subpoenaing people, it usually means it is inclined to block a sale on antitrust grounds. Capella already owns another hospital in Hot Springs, National Park Medical Center.

An FTC spokesman said he couldn’t comment on the nonpublic investigation.

“At this time, we don’t have any new information to share,” a Mercy spokeswoman said in an email last week. “We look forward to providing an update once there is new information.”

When the proposed sale was announced in April, outrage swept through Hot Springs.

It caused Eric Jackson, the general manager of Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, to resign from Mercy’s national board of directors. “I have a strong conviction” that a faith-based, not-for-profit hospital is the best hospital for Hot Springs, Jackson said at the time.

Also, Bishop Anthony B. Taylor of the Catholic Diocese of Little Rock expressed uneasiness about the deal.

Taylor said in a statement in April that he was concerned about the “negative impact this purchase could have on the medical care available to the poor and on the Hot Springs community in general.”