Phoebe Putney moves forward after FTC settlement

Phoebe Putney moves forward after FTC settlement

Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital leaders say they're ready to fully merge services with the Phoebe North campus, now that a 4-year legal battle with the Federal Trade Commission over the buyout is over.

"Today is a beginning of a new chapter, which we call Phoebe's way forward," said Joel Wernick, the CEO of Phoebe Putney Health System.

Wernick stopped short of calling the settlement a victory and says they wish this long, costly legal fight could have been avoided.

Employees from Phoebe North and Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital gathered in the main lobby to hear the news firsthand.

The Federal Trade Commission reached a settlement with Phoebe over their purchase of Palmyra Medical Center, in December 2010.

"Well, we prevailed. Sometimes when you prevail it doesn't necessarily mean that somebody won or lost," said Wernick.

After a case that went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, the FTC ended its challenge to the merger but still maintains the purchase violates federal anti-trust laws and creates a healthcare monopoly.

"We would not have agreed to any settlement that said that we did anything illegal, because we haven't done anything illegal," said Wernick. "What is true is that we have taken two separate pieces of property owned by two separate owners and placed them under the ownership of one, which they call a two to one merger, which they generally disfavor."

Wernick says the acquisition of Palmyra is worth the legal battle, which cost them close to 8 figures.

"While we didn't count on having to spend as much on lawyers, ultimately if you spend that amount of money over 50 years, you can see how it's more than worth what took place," said Wernick.

While the settlement includes restrictions for Phoebe, leaders are working towards getting the injunction lifted so they can make changes to both campuses, which they say will improve healthcare in Southwest Georgia.

"We have a team already at work, and has been, evaluating what works best on which campus," said Wernick.

"We think that our experts in emergency care are going to be able to come up with a system that has the North campus have a much more expedient, less emergent, more urgent approach to that. And I see that as being probably one of the primary things that you may see happen there immediately," explained Wernick.

Phoebe leaders expect Judge Louis Sands, in the next few days, will lift the injunction that prohibited the merger from moving forward.

To read the FTC settlement, click on the link below.

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