ALBANY, GA (WALB) - Palmyra Medical Center has received permission to provide level one obstetrics, which means the hospital can perform uncomplicated births. They are working on final design and construction plans and hope to begin deliveries within a year.
Not surprisingly, Phoebe Putney is appealing the decision by the Department of Community Health, saying if Palmyra delivers babies, it will dilute services at Phoebe.
Chief of Staff Dr. Mike Daugherty says the birthing center will have seven labor and delivery suites, a c-section unit and a nursery. He said, "We couldn't be more excited to be delivering babies soon in Albany."
This is the fourth time Palmyra has applied for Certificate of Need approval to the Department of Community Health, and the hospital just received approval Friday.
Dr. Daugherty said, "We believe that in our community, it's good to have choice and competition. We think that's not only going to provide better healthcare, but hopefully help in financial aspects of medicine with competition and hopefully lowering healthcare costs in the future."
But already there is a challenge by Phoebe Putney Hospital. "We, of course, will appeal that," said Dr. Douglas Patten. "The board has taken a well thought out position long ago on this, that dilution of the key service in this community will not offer any community benefit and may actually contribute to dilution of quality of care."
Patten, VP of Medical Affairs for Phoebe, says most of the women who deliver at Phoebe, are not paying customers, and if Palmyra takes a significant portion of the few who do pay, it will hurt other areas of service.
He said, "Their level one services will take revenues away from this hospital that help support the NICU, that help support the perinatal unit for high risk mothers and babies."
Vince Falcione represents CACH, the coalition for Affordable and Competitive Healthcare, and says he's never heard of competition diluting quality, only making it stronger. He said, "Competition helps you get better quality. It's just, in our opinion, a win for the consumer, a win for the community. I look at this as a start for things to come."
Phoebe will now enter an appeal.
Palmyra plans to move ahead and hopes to begin delivering babies within 12 months.
Palmyra says while they are a private hospital, they plan to provide 70% indigent care in the obstetrical unit, which mirrors the trend in Albany, so they will not only be taking "paying customers" from Phoebe.
The unit is expected to cost close to $7 Million to complete.