ALBANY, GA (WALB) – After years of fierce competition and often back and forth lawsuits between Albany's two hospitals, Phoebe and Palmyra are set to become one.
Tuesday morning, Phoebe Putney's Hospital Authority approved a $195 million deal to buy Palmyra Medical Center. The agreement ends competition between the two, including an that lawsuit over whether Palmyra could start delivering babies.
They'll call it Phoebe North, but Phoebe CEO Joel Wernick said this is not a simple transaction, there's still a lot to be discussed, including what services, Phoebe might use this building for, whether they'll keep two emergency rooms or other duplicate services.
It will be another 30 to 45 days before the agreement will be finalized and they don't expect to have all the answers by then.
The announcement came with applause in the main lobby at Phoebe, many employees had no idea a deal was in the works.
"We got email around 8:30, 9:00 this morning and everyone in all the departments were like oh my gosh, oh my gosh, showing each other emails and what not," said Katrena Waters, RN Hematology/Oncology.
"I think we have a lot of fabulous services at Phoebe so I think we'll just incorporate those throughout the community," said Hannah Orlowski, Diabetes Care center Director.
For $195 million the Phoebe Putney Hospital Authority will buy 18 different pieces of property owned by HCA including the hospital and several doctors' offices. They plan to keep current employees.
"We have no plans for any layoffs. I will tell you the folks at Palmyra will be new Phoebe employees just like someone who may come and apply today," said Phoebe Putney CEO Joel Wernick.
Whether they'll keep two emergency rooms or two Rehab facilities and other services hasn't been worked out. "It's not been decided," said Wernick.
The two hospitals have fought over certificates of need for delivering babies, surgical centers and more and when we questioned if the hospital was just trying to get rid of competition we were told.
"What we see this is as an opportunity to continue a tremendous growth that has had us adding over three thousand employees here, three thousand jobs over the last 10 or 15 years," said Wernick.
CEO Joel Wernick knows there will be criticism of the deal. He told us for those concerned, they're taking more properties off the tax records that's not the case.
"We've made a commitment as part of this transaction to make sure that those revenues continue to flow into the county coffers," said Wernick.
Phoebe Putney says right now Palmyra Hospital has unused capacity that they plan to put to good use. "Our rehab center is full our neonatal intensive care unit very, very busy," said Wernick.
Palmyra Officials wouldn't speak with us on camera, they said they've provided quality care to this community for almost 40 years and will continue to focus on patients. Hospital CEO Mark Rader said while they've had great support from the community for broadening services, the dynamic environment makes this their best course of action.
Because Palmyra is a privately run hospital, no government approval is needed for this deal to go forward, just the approval of the boards. The transfer of Palmyra's certificate of needs will be part of the agreement.
The Phoebe Hospital Authority plans for to have a separate medical staff and board at Phoebe North. They say as a bi-product of the deal, Phoebe may get a trauma center designation.
This deal will expand Phoebe's growing network of what currently includes 10 facilities in more than a half dozen counties.
In 1990, Phoebe Putney restructured to a health system that allowed the hospital to expand services beyond Dougherty County. The health system now includes Phoebe Sumter Hospital in Americus, Phoebe Worth in Sylvester, Southwest Regional Medical Center in Cuthbert, and a lease agreement with Dorminy Medical Center in Fitzgerald.
Phoebe also manages Family Medical Center Clinics in Sylvester, Ashburn, Camilla, Pelham, and Lee County, along with two Albany clinics in East and Northwest Albany.
Phoebe has never expanded the 443 bed capacity of the Albany hospital. The purchase of Palmyra ends the hospital's nearly 40 year commitment to Albany. Palmyra Medical Center has been owned by HCA since they opened in 1971.
The hospital has more than 200 on-staff physicians, a medical support staff of more than 400 employees, and nearly 100 volunteers.
Palmyra Medical Center offers 248 inpatient beds and sees approximately 60,000 patients annually.
Other facilities owned or operated by Phoebe Putney
Phoebe Sumter in Americus
Phoebe Worth in Sylvester, including a cancer clinic and the Worth Co. EMS service
SWGA Regional Medical Center in Cuthbert, managed by Phoebe Putney
A lease agreement with Dorminey Medical Center in Fitzgerald, a precursor to Phoebe's ownership of the hospital
Phoebe Family Medical Center Clinic , Ashburn
Phoebe Family Medical Center Clinic, Camilla
Phoebe Family Medical Center Clinic, Lee County
Phoebe Family Medical Center Clinic, Pelham
Phoebe Family Medical Center Clinic, Sylvester
Phoebe Satellite Clinics in East Albany and Northwest Albany