It’s not exactly a case of “come back; all is forgiven.” But the announcement Tuesday that Sutter Health, a Northern California health system based in Sacramento, was buying Radiological Associates of Sacramento did seem analogous to a bitterly divorced couple’s learning that they really were perfect for each other after all.

Sutter Health’s Tom Blinn described the wooing back of a once-scorned partner this way:

What we learned was that state, national, and local health care had changed so much that there was value collaboration. Could we do it better together? The answer: profoundly.

Awwww, how sweet. Blinn is Sutter’s CEO for ambulatory care in the Sacramento Sierra region and was instrumental in the deal.

Effective February 1, according to a Sutter news release, Sutter Medical Foundation will own and operate Radiological Associates’ radiation oncology and diagnostic imaging services, and the radiology group’s 60 shareholder physicians will join Sutter Medical Group. Sutter said it expects to keep Radiological Associates’ nearly 800 employees.

Sutter and Radiological Associates had been longtime partners until Sutter ended the contract in 2010. According to the Sacramento Business Journal, the health chain hired 34 radiologists but “found it more difficult than expected to replace its longtime partner.” For overnight reads, it initially used Radisphere, then switched to StatRad.

Meanwhile, Radiological Associates began building its own teleradiology business. Sutter will take that over as well. “Teleradiology is in relative vogue in this health care environment,” Blinn said.

Jonathan Breslau, MD, said he began informal talks with Sutter after he became Radiological Associates president in September 2011. “My goal was repairing the relationship,” he said. Not quite a year ago, he said, Sutter began talking about an acquisition.

Sutter Medical Group has about 640 members, according to Christine Griger, MD, president and CEO. That breaks down to 520 doctors and 120 allied health professionals. “This brings us up to about 700,” Dr. Griger said. “And we are interested in growing it from there.”

Sutter currently owns and operates five imaging centers. After the buyout, it will own 40 imaging centers, six radiation oncology centers, and one interventional radiology center.

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Related CME seminar (up to 35.25 AMA PRA Category 1 credits™): UW Radiology Review Course “Not Just for Residents”

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