110117-nws-federal-building

The William L. Guy Federal Building in Bismarck is the site of a U.S. District Court hearing of the Federal Trade Commission and North Dakota Attorney General’s Office hoping for a preliminary injunction to block the merger between Sanford Health and Mid Dakota Clinic. 10-31-2017

MIKE MCCLEARY TRIBUNE

A Mid Dakota Clinic doctor says most her patients don't want a merger with Sanford Health.

Dr. Janice Bury, an OBGYN at Mid Dakota’s Women’s Health Center, took the stand Tuesday in the second of a four-day hearing in U.S. District Court seeking an injunction in the Federal Trade Commission's anti-trust suit against Mid Dakota and Sanford.

The injunction would put a hold on merger talks between the two entities until a formal FTC hearing Nov. 28 in Washington, D.C., according to court filings.

“Every day patients ask me, ‘What is going on?’” she said, and most don’t express support for the merger, she added. “I think if anyone asked people on the street, eyes would be opened.”

In addition to patients sharing concerns, Bury, one of Mid Dakota’s physician shareholders who voted against the merger, testified about concerns of her own.

“I don’t believe it’s the right thing to do,” she said. “It’s healthy (for patients) to have the right to choose … If you remove competition, you’re doing a disservice.”

Bury also testified she has worked both for and with CHI St. Alexius Health in a number of capacities over her decades long career and feels a loyalty to the organization. She said many of her patients are loyal to the hospital system as well.

In early 2015, Mid Dakota was in talks with both Sanford and CHI St. Alexius Health over potential mergers. In spring 2016, Mid Dakota lawyers said CHI St. Alexius walked away for undisclosed reasons.

Bury said, should the merger be allowed to go through, she is considering a couple of options. She has an offer for a clinic space to be created for her at CHI or she may retire.

As for the reason for the merger, Bury said she has been told Mid Dakota was "not going to be able to make it financially," in the future.

"I don't understand it," she said, citing her own professional experiences and number of patients she sees.

The FTC filed suit to block the merger between Mid Dakota and Sanford in June, citing that it would greatly reduce competition for medical services in the Bismarck-Mandan area, particularly for adult primary care, obstetrics and gynecology, pediatrics and general surgery.

“Sanford Health continues to defend its case that the merger with Mid Dakota Clinic is in the best interest of the people of central and western North Dakota and will increase access for patients to new and expanded medical services," Sanford spokesman Jon Berg said in a statement. "We are ready to share the facts on how the merger will improve health care in our region at the hearing this week.”

Other testimony Tuesday came from a number of FTC experts, including an anti-trust investigator specializing in healthcare mergers and an economist, as well as area employer NISC speaking on its own experience purchasing health insurance for its employees.

Other testimony Monday came from a number of insurance companies.

Hearings will resume in the case Thursday.

Reach Jessica Holdman at 701-250-8261 or jessica.holdman@bismarcktribune.com

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Business Reporter