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Kootenai Health to buy Heart Clinics

Deal would expand services in N. Idaho, stay same in Spokane

Kootenai Health plans to buy Spokane-based Heart Clinics Northwest in a bid to ensure North Idaho retains cardiology services.

The acquisition will not affect services now available to patients in Spokane, said Jon Ness, who took over as chief executive of Kootenai Health a year ago. It will mean an expansion of services in North Idaho.

For instance, Kootenai Health will have cardiologists perform electrophysiology services to patients in North Idaho rather than refer them to Spokane.

The deal marks the latest development in area cardiac service. Heart Clinics was the last unaffiliated cardiology group. Rockwood Clinic and Inland Cardiology have been purchased by Community Health Systems Inc., which also owns Deaconess Medical Center and Valley Hospital and Medical Center.

Spokane Cardiology recently sold to Providence Health Care, which operates Sacred Heart Medical Center and Holy Family Hospital.

Providence attempted last year to buy Heart Clinics, but the deal unraveled when the Federal Trade Commission raised antitrust concerns.

Ness said he anticipated no such problems.

“This deal continues competition,” he said.

He said the buyout is tied to Idaho’s struggle to recruit and retain physicians. The state, he said, ranks 49th in the ratio of physicians to patients.

Kootenai Health has been working to curb any further erosion of medical services. Surgeons, endocrinologists, neurologists, family doctors, ear nose and throat specialists, and obstetricians and gynecologists have been hired or merged practices with Kootenai Health.

Mike Wilson, interim chief executive of Providence Health Care, called the buyout a positive development.

“We have been assured in conversations with Kootenai Health that there won’t be a disruption of the excellent relationship we have had with the physicians of Heart Clinics,” he said. Heart Clinics has a large facility on the Sacred Heart campus.

Ness said disparate Medicare reimbursement schemes that have squeezed cardiology practices were not an issue in the buyout. It was purely a play to keep doctors in North Idaho and expand services, he said.

Heart Clinics officials deferred comment on the proposed buyout by Kootenai Health.

Kootenai Health, public hospital taxing district, has formed a limited liability company that will purchase the privately held stock of Heart Clinics, said Ness.

Financial terms of the proposed acquisition are not yet final and Ness declined to disclose the preliminary cost estimate.

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