Phoebe Putney Health System will not have to sell the hospital that's now known as Phoebe North.
The long legal battle between Phoebe and the Federal Trade Commission is over.
The FTC announced a settlement Tuesday.
This hospital was at the heart of a 4-year long legal showdown between Phoebe Putney and the federal government.
The FTC still maintains the Albany Dougherty Hospital Authority's purchase of the former Palmyra Medical Center created an illegal healthcare monopoly in the Albany area.
But the commission says it's too late to do much about it now.
The FTC said since a federal appeals court allowed the merger to move forward more than three years ago there's really no way to force Phoebe to sell Phoebe North now.
Under the settlement, Phoebe must notify the FTC before acquiring any part of a hospital or controlling interest in other healthcare providers for 10-years.
Also Phoebe can't challenge application for a new hospital in the area for 5-years.
Phoebe officials would not comment on the settlement tonight but are planning a news conference tomorrow morning to discuss it.
The full press release is listed below. Tune into WALB News 10 at 11 for more.
Georgia Healthcare Planning Law Ultimately Precluded Divestiture
The Federal Trade Commission has entered into a settlement with Phoebe Putney Health System, Inc., the Hospital Authority of Albany-Dougherty County, and HCA Inc. resolving the Commission's charge that the Hospital Authority's acquisition of Palmyra Park Hospital, Inc. from HCA Inc. – which created an effective hospital monopoly in the Albany, Georgia area – was anticompetitive. This consent agreement follows a significant Supreme Court victory in 2013 that reaffirmed the narrow scope of state action immunity and allowed the Commission to challenge this transaction. Due to the unavailability of structural relief, the consent does not require a divestiture.
“While we continue to have reason to believe that Phoebe Putney's acquisition of Palmyra violated Section 7 of the Clayton Act and Section 5 of the FTC Act, any relief attempting to restore the competition lost as a result of the merger is precluded by Georgia's strict CON [Certificate of Need] requirements,” the Commission wrote in a statement. Although a divestiture was available when the Commission filed this case, an Eleventh Circuit decision allowing the parties to consummate the transaction gave rise to the circumstances that the Commission ultimately determined precluded a divestiture here.
Under the consent agreement with the FTC, Phoebe Putney and the Hospital Authority must notify the FTC in advance of acquiring any part of a hospital or a controlling interest in other healthcare providers in the Albany, Georgia area for the next 10 years, and will be prohibited from objecting to regulatory applications made by potential new hospital providers in the same area for up to five years.
The settlement announced today is similar to the one proposed in 2013. Like the earlier settlement, it:
requires Phoebe Putney and the Hospital Authority to give the FTC prior notice before acquiring any part of a hospital or a controlling interest in other healthcare providers in the Albany, Georgia area. prohibits the Hospital Authority and Phoebe Putney from opposing a Certificate of Need application for a general acute-care hospital in the Albany area. contains a stipulation that the effect of the transaction may be substantially to lessen competition within the relevant service and geographic markets alleged in the complaint. The Commission vote to make the consent order final was 3-0-2, with Commissioners Joshua D. Wright and Terrell McSweeny not participating.
NOTE: When the Commission issues a consent order on a final basis, it carries the force of law with respect to future actions. Each violation of such an order may result in a civil penalty of up to $16,000 per day.