Judge halts Phoebe/Palmyra merger - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Judge halts Phoebe/Palmyra merger

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Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital's buyout of Palmyra Medical Center is now officially on hold.

Thursday, Judge Louis Sands granted the Federal Trade Commission's request for the temporary restraining order.

That means the deal can't move forward at least until a federal court hearing next month. The FTC is fighting the $195 million deal, saying it was put together to try to get around federal anti-trust laws and will illegally eliminate health care competition.

The order gives both sides until mid-May to file their arguments with the judge. A hearing will likely be set for the end of May to determine if the deal can move forward or if the judge will keep the deal on hold through and FTC hearing in September.

The FTC's request to stop the deal was temporarily granted by a federal court judge who issued two motions, one that remains sealed. The community seems pleased the deal will get more review.

 "We should be able to have a voice," said Barbara Horry.

"There's a lot of stuff that's going on that needs to be looked into a little more," said Carl Davis.

The FTC contends the deal was arranged by Phoebe through the Hospital Authority to avoid federal anti-trust scrutiny. Today Phoebe officials wouldn't comment, but Wednesday Phoebe CEO Joel Wernick explained they've provided the FTC paperwork.

"The Hospital Authority of Albany-Dougherty County and Phoebe Putney have cooperated 110 percent with every request made of it by the Federal Trade Commission."

 It's the Hospital Authority the FTC is questioning. They're a eight member board elected to five year terms by the Dougherty County Commission, created out of Georgia's Hospital Authority act. They give Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital the authority to lease the building and one of the conditions of the lease is to grow the hospital.

The FTC claims the Authority never reviewed Phoebe's offer to HCA until all other parties had approved it including the Phoebe board. That's why some community members are glad the FTC is calling for more review.

"I'm sure there's a lot of dirty stuff going on that we don't really know what's going on," said Tynesa Marshall.

The FTC claims the Hospital Authority has not actively supervised Phoebe in any way or its prices. Today board members denied our request for interviews because of the legal action. 

So, where does all of this leaves Palmyra Medical Center employees? Thursday hospital officials said Palmyra will continue business as usual, providing quality care for its patients.

Phoebe Putney attorney's will have until May fourth to respond to the temporary restraining order and the FTC will be given a week beyond that for their response.

 

  • Here are the members of the Dougherty County Hospital Authority

 

Member Name              Term Expires

Rev. H. B. Johnson       12/31/2013

Ralph Rosenberg          12/31/2015

John Hayes                   12/31/2015

Fred Ghiglieri                12/31/2015

Dr. John Inman, Jr.       12-31-2012

Lamar Reese                 12/31/2012

Dr. Eugene Sherman, Jr.   12/31/2013

Dr. Charles Lingle         12/31/2015