FTC investigates possible 2015 settlement violation - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

FTC investigates possible 2015 settlement violation

The FTC is investigating a possible settlement violation. (Source: WALB) The FTC is investigating a possible settlement violation. (Source: WALB)
(Source: WALB) (Source: WALB)
Rick Muggridge is a Lee County Commissioner. (Source: WALB) Rick Muggridge is a Lee County Commissioner. (Source: WALB)
(Source: WALB) (Source: WALB)
ALBANY, GA (WALB) -

The Federal Trade Commission is looking into Phoebe's possible involvement in opposition to the proposed Lee County Medical Center.

Any involvement would be a violation of a 2015 settlement between the FTC and Phoebe Putney Health System and the Albany-Dougherty County Hospital Authority

Officials with Phoebe have categorically denied any involvement.

The parties were involved in a lawsuit years ago following an issue with the sale of Palmyra Medical Center. 

Part of that settlement said Phoebe could maintain Palmyra Medical Center, which is now Phoebe North under a number of conditions. 

A letter from the Federal Trade Commission, dated September 26, 2017, said officials are conducting a "non-public investigation."

The FTC is looking to see if officials with the Hospital Authority of Albany Dougherty County and Phoebe Putney Memorial Health Systems made negative comments about or tried to stop the Certificate of Need Application for the Lee County Medical Center. 

In the 2015 agreement between the FTC and the two parties, it says Phoebe and all its divisions, as well as the Hospital authority, could not, even indirectly object a Certificate of Need filed with the Department of Community Health for a general acute care hospital in the six-county region that Phoebe serves. 

Tommy Coleman represents the Hospital Authority. He said he sent the FTC letter to members of the authority as a reminder that they can't comment on the proposed Lee County Medical Center.

Lee County Commissioner Rick Muggridge said he heard the FTC may have been looking into Phoebe's involvement, but did not know for sure until the letter was posted to social media. 

"People would speculate that possibility the FTC might look into it. I frankly had no idea about those kind of things," explained Muggridge.

Muggridge said he hopes the investigation doesn't find anything.

"The last thing I want to see is any harm to Phoebe in regards to fines or anything like that," said Muggridge.

Phoebe released the following statement concerning the matter: 

Phoebe has not violated our voluntary consent agreement with the Federal Trade Commission.  Some people associated with the proposed hospital in Lee County made allegations to the contrary, and the FTC dutifully exercised its responsibilities by looking into those allegations.  Phoebe cooperated fully with the FTC and provided them with all information requested.

Officials with the FTC said they can't confirm there is an investigation or comment on it. 

As far as the future of the Lee County Medical center, the opposition has until December 15 to make an appeal against the approval of the certificate of need. 

MORE: Department of Health approves CON for proposed Lee Co. hospital

Officials said Crisp Regional Medical Center is the only opposition that has the authority to file an appeal because they are a provider close-by where the center will be built. 

Muggridge told WALB he has personally written to people at Crisp Regional, telling them the hospital officials are willing to work with the medical center to help improve healthcare in Southwest Georgia.  

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