Phoebe 'monopoly' to end? - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Phoebe 'monopoly' to end?

Posted: Updated:

April 7, 2008

Albany --  There is a  big victory for Palmyra Medical Centers in its battle to deliver babies. A bill that passed the legislature gives them that right, and contains other sweeping medical changes, as well.

Legislators overhauled the state's outdated certificate of need system. The changes will also allow general surgeons to open their own ambulatory surgery centers.

South Georgia Surgeons are celebrating what they call an end to Phoebe Putney Hospital's "monopoly on health care."

General Surgeon Dr. John Bagnato is already busy, if and when the Governor signs into law the new Georgia healthcare reform bill. "I'm going to move forward with setting up an ambulatory surgery center."

Bagnato and other general surgeons in Georgia have battled for almost a decade against Certificate of Need laws that prohibited them from opening surgery centers to compete with community hospitals.

Dr. Bagnato says it's not only a victory for his business future. He says it's a win for all Georgians concerned about skyrocketing health care costs. "What it means for Albany is that we'll now have many choices. At least another choice besides the Phoebe monopoly," Bagnato said.

Large Albany industry has led a fight for competition in health care for years, saying that health care costs were kept high because of Phoebe Putney Hospital's monopoly on services. Phoebe and other Community Hospitals across the state battled to keep the CON laws, saying competition would hurt their ability to serve indigent patients.

Phoebe Putney Public Relations Manager Valerie Benton said "Phoebe has been in this community for one hundred years, and we've taken care of everyone who has entered these doors. And we will continue that."

Palmyra Medical Centers executives spent the day studying the massive House Reform Bill, but admit they are optimistic about competitive services like basic level one child birth and heart procedures, that they were locked out of under old CON laws.

 Palmyra Medical Centers CEO Bud Wethington said, "We are going to look at every opportunity, and see where we need to go with this.

Dr. Bagnato says big changes are ahead for South Georgia health care customers. "It's a victory for the patients of Georgia, and for the patients of Albany. It's a huge victory."

More competition for South Georgia health care, that Industry and Doctors say will bring sweeping medical changes.

Governor Sonny Perdue has been a supporter of Certificate of Need health care reform, and he is expected to sign the bill.

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