Governments want hospital merger put on hold - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Governments want hospital merger put on hold

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Phoebe's CEO Joel Wernick Phoebe's CEO Joel Wernick

The Georgia Attorney General and the Federal Trade Commission claim Phoebe Putney tried to get around federal anti-trust laws in its takeover of Palmyra Medical Center.

 They think the deal violates federal law, claiming the $195 million was presented to the Authority at the 11th hour with no independent analysis.

Wednesday they asked a judge for injunction to keep the deal from going through. The complaint is sealed so we don't know exactly what it claims. A release from the Georgia's Attorney General's office claims the deal violates federal law by eliminating competition.

Today Phoebe's CEO Joel Wernick told us they've got to expand this hospital and feel they've been up front with information the entire time.

In a move that didn't catch Phoebe Putney attorneys off guard, the Georgia Attorney General partnered with the Federal Trade Commission to delay Phoebe Putney's buyout of Palmyra Medical Center.

The complaint alleges Phoebe used the Hospital Authority to hide private anti-competitive activity in hopes of making the deal exempt from federal antitrust law.

Phoebe's CEO doesn't agree. "We have literally complied with every single request at considerable expense to be helpful with the Federal Trade Commission and any other regulatory body that has helped. That includes putting together a quarter of a million pages of paperwork requested by the FTC, but only after requesting the hospital be given more time."

"We are what you would call a very cooperative organization, and we feel very confident have tried to do everything we know how to tell the story of this transaction."

Palmyra's parent company would only say, "We're aware of the filing, and are awaiting the judge's decision."

Most people we talked with in Albany agree with the Attorney General and FTC, this deal eliminates competition in a six county area.

"It takes away a choice for us, where we want to go, because I prefer to go to Palmyra," said Tynesa Marshall.

"If the state Attorney General has looked into this then he doesn't have, he's basing his opinions on legal issues, not, not, the Phoebe Palmyra competition," said Carolyn Corriere.

"Most people do want a choice, Phoebe is phenomenal at what they do, but I kind of like the idea of having a choice," Gwen Davis said.

It will now be up to a judge to decide in a formal hearing. The statement released this afternoon by the Federal Trade Commission says, "In this case, the FTC alleges the transaction was motivated and planned exclusively by Phoebe acting in its own independent private interest and not in the interest of patients."

 Phoebe Putney Health System postponed closing the deal with HCA on as many as four times leading up to the filing of this complaint. Phoebe Putney CEO Joel Wernick says he stands by the health system's claim that the buyout will benefit the health of people in this area.

 

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