With Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson filing a federal lawsuit against CHI Franciscan yesterday, the Tacoma-based health network replied to the allegations with a statement.

“We are disappointed that the Attorney General took this extreme action against physicians and caregivers on the (Kitsap) Peninsula,” said Cary Evans, vice president of communications & government affairs at CHI Franciscan Health. “The Doctors Clinic and WestSound Orthopaedics came to us separately, and each group asked us to consider an affiliation with them, because both groups were in financial distress and needed CHI Franciscan’s assistance to be able to continue to serve patients in the Kitsap community.”

WestSound and TDC were both named in the Attorney General’s suit, which alleges that CHI’s July 2016 acquisition of WestSound and September 2016 affiliation with WestSound violate state and federal antitrust laws. “These transactions,” Ferguson alleges, “were intentionally made to decrease competition, increase prices, and pad CHI Franciscan’s bottom line at the expense of its patients.”

“We are very concerned that the AG’s actions will drive away physicians from the community, inhibit our ability to recruit new physicians to the area, and will ultimately result in fewer choices and less quality health care available to the residents of the community,” Evans continued in reply. “Because of our concern about what a lawsuit of this nature might do to health care in the community, TDC, WSO, and CHI Franciscan attempted to negotiate in good faith with the AG to try to respond to his concerns without the need for him to file a lawsuit and cause disruption in the local health care community. The AG rejected our attempts to negotiate, and instead chose to act in a way that will cause instability in the Kitsap health care market for some time to come. CHI Franciscan plans to vigorously defend this case, and believes that the AG’s allegations are misguided and unfounded.”

Both TDC and WestSound also offered rebuttals to the suit.

“Like many small clinics across the country, our doctors just want to care for their patients,” said Jay Burghart, executive director of TDC. “Yet we face enormous pressures in today's healthcare environment. Insurance reimbursement rates are way down and patient volumes can be unpredictable. In the face of these financial pressures, we approached CHI Franciscan about a partnership that keeps our clinics open and ensures our doctors can continue to live and practice on the peninsula.”

“As Orthopedic specialists, our primary goal is to provide high quality, accessible patient care. Our viability hinges on the patients we serve, as well as our relationship with the broader medical community and insurance providers,” echoed Dawson S. Brown of WestSound. “In the current healthcare economy, small practices like ours are increasingly squeezed and unsustainable. To remain open and keep expert specialist doctors on the Peninsula, we joined CHI FH so we could continue to provide world-class care to our patients.”