The Suburbanite
  • What's next for Aultman, Mercy?

  • What’s next for the two hospitals and the patients they serve?

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  • Mercy Medical Center has a $6 million verdict in its case against Aultman Health Foundation.
    Mercy accused Aultman of secretly paying select insurance brokers to steer business to AultCare, McKinley Life and, ultimately, Aultman Hospital.
    Aultman’s attorneys said Mercy was resorting to a lawsuit because it couldn’t hack it in the marketplace.
    So what’s next for the two hospitals and the patients they serve?
    Both sides claimed victory after the verdict Tuesday in Stark County Common Pleas Court. Mercy prevailed on one of its six claims, but fell short of the $110 million in damages it was seeking.
    Aultman Health Foundation is “relieved and encouraged that the jury sided with us on five of the six counts,” said associate counsel and spokesman Robert Mullen. “We strongly and vigorously reject their conclusion on the remaining count.”
    Mullen said Aultman would appeal the judgment.
    At Mercy, president and chief executive officer Thomas E. Cecconi said he was pleased that “the jury recognized that Mercy’s claims were true and that Aultman had been participating in a pattern of corrupt action for 13 years.”
    After the verdict, Aultman’s attorney Allen Schulman called the $6 million judgment “insignificant.” Cecconi strongly disagreed.
    “We expected maybe something higher than that. But, again, when you go back to the circumstances, the fact that this is the largest award granted in a business-to-business transaction in Stark County, that’s substantial. And we deserved every penny,” Cecconi said.
    Both parties declined to give a figure for the cost of legal representation and hiring expert witnesses for the trial.
    A separate hearing date will be set for Mercy’s request that Aultman pay Mercy’s legal fees.
    “We’ll continue to be able to do the things we’ve done in the community,” said Aultman’s president and chief executive officer Ed Roth. “It’s not going to impact what we do. Our goal in the beginning was to keep the jobs in the economy, and we have.”
    Cecconi said Mercy will use the $6 million for patient services and community outreach.
    “One of the points we like to bring home,” Cecconi said, “is that I think the consumer will be affected by the fact that fair and ethical competition will now be standard if, in fact, Aultman abides by what the jury verdict is and changes their business practice. If that happens, then the playing field will be level and fair competition will be for the good of the community.”
    The trial was bruising for both sides.
    While Aultman and Mercy compete, they also cooperate on some projects. For example, the hospitals are part of the same training program for doctors.
    Page 2 of 2 - Cecconi and Roth both said they see the hospitals continuing to work together.
    “Hopefully, in the future, we’ll be able to do more together,” Cecconi said.
    The trial, Roth added, pointed up the fact “we have terrific health care in this community. One of our experts said Mercy and Aultman have some of the lowest costs together in the country.”
    Mercy wasted little time in getting its message out to the community.
    Cecconi, Roger Mann, chairman of the Board of Directors at Mercy, and Sister Judith Ann Karam, president and CEO of Sisters of Charity Health System, released a letter outlining the hospital’s position in lieu of the verdict.
    Repository writers Diana Rossetti and Shane Hoover compiled this report.

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