FRANKFURT Dec 27 Germany's state of Hesse said
on Friday it was preparing to file a suit against Rhoen-Klinikum
if the hospitals operator fails to meet a deadline to
start offering particle therapy at its Giessen-Marburg hospital.
Rhoen-Klinikum bought the hospital in central Germany from
the state in 2006 and at the time promised to invest in particle
therapy, a method for fighting cancer in which protons or
charged ions are fired at tumours while sparing surrounding
It teamed up with engineering group Siemens to
set up the facility but the companies eventually found that the
equipment could not be used for the kind of continuous operation
needed to make it pay off financially.
Siemens bought back the equipment from Rhoen and pulled out
of the project, saying it had been too ambitious in offering the
new technology for general patient treatment.
Rhoen-Klinikum had promised less than a year ago that it
would start operating the particle therapy facility by the end
of 2013. If it misses that deadline, the state could tell it to
repay the 107 million euros ($146.5 million) the state had given
Rhoen in 2006 to invest in particle therapy.
Rhoen is in talks to operate the facility jointly with the
university hospital of Heidelberg, which has a similar particle
therapy equipment, though it is not clear when these
negotiations may be completed.
"We are in intensive and constructive talks with Heidelberg
university," a spokesman for Rhoen-Klinikum said. "We hope that
the talks will lead to a good and sustainable result."
Hesse's science ministry said in a statement it would file a
suit against Rhoen-Klinikum no later than March 1 to safeguard
its interests unless the particle therapy facility started
operating by then.
It said it still saw hope that its planned legal move could
be averted if talks between Rhoen and Heidelberg university were
($1 = 0.7303 euros)
(Reporting by Andreas Kroener and Maria Sheahan. Editing by