A U.S. District Court judge has thwarted an effort by federal regulators to block the sale of Davis Regional Medical Center and Lake Norman Regional Medical Center to Novant Health Care.

The court order, signed Wednesday by Judge Kenneth D. Bell, clears the way for the $320 million transaction between Novant and Community Health Systems Inc.

“We’re eager to welcome the Lake Norman and Davis facilities into the Novant Health network,” Novant CEO Carl Armato said in a news release Wednesday.

The Federal Trade Commission sought to block the sale, arguing in a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court for the Western District of North Carolina in January that the acquisition of Lake Norman Regional would give Novant an unfair competitive advantage in the North Mecklenburg-South Iredell market. Novant also owns a hospital in Huntersville.

In his ruling denying the FTC’s request for a preliminary injunction, Judge Bell concluded that “the public interest is best served by Novant being permitted to own and operate” both hospitals.

Novant has pledged to keep Davis Regional — which transitioned to a behavioral health facility after the sale was announced — open and to shore up Lake Norman Regional by “adding staff, raising salaries, and making investments in equipment and infrastructure at LNR that will benefit patients and medical providers,” according to the 55-page court ruling.

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