Mercy Hospital CEO Responds to Health Care Controversy

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A controversy is brewing in Scranton.

Last week the CEO of Mercy Health System claimed national health care reform was partially responsible for the decision to put three hospitals up for sale.

His comments to Newswatch 16 hit the internet and President Obama's critics used it as a way to slam health care reform.

Now Mercy CEO Kevin Cook is fighting back. He doesn't like what's going on, claiming critics of health care reform are taking him out of context days before a critical election.

Less than a week after Mercy Health Care System announced it's looking for a buyer, radio ads hit the airways.

"Mercy Hospital President Kevin Cook said that President Obama's health care reform bill absolutely played a role in their decision to close their doors," states a radio ad paid for by and airing on local radio stations.

"First of all, we're not closing," Cook said Tuesday.

He added bad information is spinning out of control on the internet and other media all at his expense because of the way health reform opponents are using his comments to Newswatch 16's Jon Meyer last week.

Meyer asked Cook last Thursday if health reform played a role in Mercy's decision to sell the hospital.

"Health care reform is absolutely playing a role. Was it the precipitating factor in this decision? No, but was it a factor in our planning over the next five years? Absolutely," Cook said.

Now Cook says health care reform is a small factor but a factor because its cost and impact is unclear.

Mercy's president and CEO feels reform opponents twisted the meaning of his words.

"I actually find it disappointing that a decision that we made that was in the best interest of the community has been politicized the way it has," Cook added.

The conservative magazine "The American Spectator" uses Cook's statement to predict "The proposed sale of the three Mercy hospitals becomes a harbinger of what will happen nationally as a result of Obamacare."

Radio ads are more blunt.

"Instead of losing Mercy Hospital, let's say goodbye to Paul Kanjorksi and Chris Carney," the radio ad continued.

"I find it disappointing that we got dragged kicking and screaming into this conversation," said Cook.

He calls the attention disappointing, and said he has no desire to participate in the political debate over the impact of health care reform on the decision to sell Mercy Health Care, which includes the hospital in Scranton.