County reacts to Phoebe-Palmyra Deal -, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

County reacts to Phoebe-Palmyra Deal

By Karen Cohilas - bio | email

ALBANY, GA (WALB) –  When Phoebe's purchase of Palmyra is finalized, the hospital will become the largest employer in Southwest Georgia. Forty-five hundred will work for Phoebe.

Dougherty County Commissioners got the chance to question the man at the helm of this huge healthcare facility Monday morning, and they expressed some of the same concerns many of you have, like what affect a monopoly will have on health care costs.

There were three main concerns. One, keeping costs competitive, that's especially important for retaining and attracting industry to the area. Two, not removing another property from the tax rolls and lastly, employees.

With Dougherty County's unemployment rate already above 10-percent, it's imperative that the 400+ Palmyra employees keep their jobs.

Phoebe CEO Joel Wernick had some face-time in front of the county commission, and outlined why Phoebe is purchasing Palmyra and the benefits it will produce. Commissioner Jack Stone says the move is positive for everyone involved. "Overall, if you stop and look at it, it's a plus-plus situation."

But there were concerns. First of all, how the merger will impact what you pay for your healthcare. "Keeping health care costs contained are critically important to all of us," said County Commission Chairman Jeff Sinyard.

Not just for individuals, but for the community, especially when it comes to economic development.

Wernick says no one knows that better than those who set the price of services. "The people who have the ultimate fiduciary responsibility for Phoebe Putney are all local citizens. In many cases, they're large local employers."

Another question: How will the move impact Palmyra employees?

Chairman Sinyard wants to make sure that more people aren't added to unemployment. Wernick says they won't be. "We do know that there is a lot of quality, hardworking folks there and our goal is to make sure that we remain at full employment."

But what about the tax base? "Protecting our tax digest and making sure that we didn't lose more properties that would be tax exempt," said Sinyard.

Wernick says Phoebe North, the new name for Palmyra, will continue to pay what it's paying the county now, in perpetuity, even though it isn't required. "I guess our position is, we consider ourself a good corporate citizen and this is the right thing to do as a good corporate citizen."

While the purchase isn't complete, it won't be much longer. Phoebe should be the owner of its second hospital in Albany by January 31st. 

While all employees will remain in their same jobs for now, their positions may not remain indefinitely. Administrators will be evaluating services at both hospitals and working to eliminate duplication of services.

Wernick says as long as employees are flexible, they will be shifted into other positions.

Phoebe North will have a new and separate board which will oversee its operation.


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