Lawyers complain about Phoebe, D. A. - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Lawyers complain about Phoebe, D. A.

May 24, 2005

Albany -- Phoebe Putney Hospital and it's Health Systems Corporation spent the day in court, trying to have a number of lawsuits against them thrown out, and to keep their financial books closed.

"The hospital with a heart" is defending itself from three suits claiming it overcharges uninsured, doesn't give fair treatment to the poor, and even false imprisonment of a man critical of them.

The lawyers complain Phoebe is keeping their books closed from inspection. All the lawsuits charge Phoebe Putney Hospital is putting money before the community. Attorney Ralph Scoccimaro said "The Hospital Corporation is a hospital without a soul. These people are profit driven."

Judge John Harvey from Pembroke is hearing the motions in a series of lawsuits against Phoebe Putney Hospital, because all local Judges could have a conflict of interest in the cases.

First Phoebe asked that seven of nine counts in a lawsuit by Charles Rehberg be thrown out. Rehberg put out the Phoebe Factoid anonymous faxes critical of the Hospital's financial practices.

Now lawyers say the not for profit hospital refuses to provide financial information. Scoccimaro said "It's going to be difficult, because Phoebe has not been forthcoming with the kind of discovery that we need. The D. A.'s office has not been forthcoming."

Judge Harvey dismissed two counts in Rehberg's lawsuit, and reserved judgement on a third. Rehberg charges Phoebe hired two former FBI Agents as thugs to intimidate him to stop his whistle blowing. Rehberg said "I think this is going to be good for the public, to have this come out in court and learn exactly what happened."

Two other groups are suing Phoebe for charging them more as uninsured patients, than patients who have insurance, and not living up to their contract calling for indigent care for the community. Attorney Laura Shamp said " We believe a very few administrators and Doctors are making a lot of money at Phoebe, while the indigent in this community are getting sicker and sicker."

All three suits complained Phoebe has not provided required information. Phoebe says the suits are all about money. Health Systems Board Member Tommy Chambless said "It's being engineered by attorney's from out of state, who have financial interests in the long run here."

Judge Harvey said he would rule on motions in those lawsuits within 15 days, after written briefs were made.

If the lawsuits are allowed to continue, Phoebe will have to open more of their financial books to scrutiny.

An expert in not for profit hospitals argued that Phoebe has failed to provide millions of dollars of required indigent health care to the community, called for in their contract to lease the hospital.

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