FTC pleased deal put on hold, Phoebe confident will go forward - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

FTC pleased deal put on hold, Phoebe confident will go forward

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The Federal Trade Commission welcomes a temporary injunction that blocks Phoebe Putney's purchase of Palmyra Medical Center.

The FTC is appealing a judge's decision that the sale can go through, and the injunction gives their appeal time to be heard without a deal being closed.

It will likely be at least a month before a hearing on the FTC appeal and Phoebe Putney said Thursday they are ready for the deal to go through.

Palmyra says the longer it's delayed, the more it hurts Palmyra's operations.

It's been more than seven months since Phoebe Putney announced plans to purchase Palmyra and the deal was stopped again this week. Thursday Phoebe officials say they believe the 11th Circuit court of appeals will handle the latest appeal quickly allowing them to move forward, but HCA says the delays have resulted in staff leaving the hospital.

Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital officials weren't surprised by another last ditch effort by the Federal Trade Commission to stop the sale of Palmyra Medical Center to Phoebe.

"We're obviously pleased by Judge Sands ruling, but when the FTC appealed to the 11th circuit, absolutely we expected that the whole time," said Joe Austin, PPMC Chief Operating Officer.

Thursday the FTC's Bureau of Competition Director said he's pleased Phoebe won't be permitted to complete the acquisition of Palmyra Park while the Eleventh Circuit considers the appeal, claiming they, "Intend to show that the proposed transaction - which will lead to a monopoly in the Albany, Georgia area - will result in higher health care costs for local patients and should not be immune to federal antitrust scrutiny." As far as the Hospital is concerned, it's just a small bump in the deal that's all smoothed out and ready to go.

"The regulatory issues, the various licenses, we had to have completed, just having the connectivity between the IT system between this hospital and that hospital, there were a thousand details to go through to get ready," said Austin.

They're confident the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals will rule the same way Judge Louis Sands did, that Phoebe is exempt from antitrust scrutiny.

"Our folks are ready, their folks are ready and honestly the thing is sitting waiting for, to complete the appeals process," said Austin.

But some we talked to today say they're glad the government is doing their due diligence, to make sure the deal is in the public's interest, even if they want to see it go through.

"So many times things occur and people have doubts whether it really went though the whole process correctly and I think after all this is said and done no one should have those doubts," said Cathy Flohre, a concerned citizen.

HCA claims the continued delays have hurt their operations. In documents filed with the 11th circuit court of appeals they claim to have lost as many as 65 employees since Phoebe announced plans to buy the hospital. They asked that the deal not be delayed, but the court ruled otherwise.

The FTC will have 21 days to file their brief with the 11th circuit, Phoebe and HCA will get equal time and there will be seven days following that for additional briefs before a hearing date is set.

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