ALBANY, Ga. (WALB) - WALB News 10 spoke to Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital and Lee County leaders about a request for an extension for the Lee County Medical (LCMC), which has since been dropped, but not before Phoebe filed an objection in May against the promised medical facility.
Earlier this year Lee County leadership requested an extension on a Certificate of Need for the anticipated LCMC.
Lee County Board of Commissioners Chairman Billy Mathis said the extension request was in part, due to the COVID -19 pandemic. He said it was a time when nothing was getting done anywhere.
Phoebe quickly took notice and filed an objection.
“They’re (Lee County) looking for exemptions that are not allowed under law,” said Scott Steiner, the president and CEO of Phoebe Putney Health System.
Mathis responded to the objection.
“Obviously, they’re back to their old ways and we’re very disappointed in Phoebe,” said Mathis.
Phoebe said they have never opposed Lee County Medical Center’s Certificate of Need. However, the hospital did file an objection to Lee County Medical Center’s extension with the Georgia Department of Community Health back in May.
Steiner said they filed the objection because they believe Lee County leaders are not following the law.
“We believe state law does not allow for that second extension,” said Steiner. “Hold them accountable, they’ve had that CON for more than two years.”
WALB asked Steiner does Phoebe have any issue or concern with Lee County building a hospital.
“We believe that they’ve got the legal right with the CON to build that. Hospitals are businesses, right, Phoebe Putney isn’t going to move the dirt for them. We’re here to care for our community,” said Steiner.
WALB’s Bobby Poitevint followed up, asking if Steiner would be supportive of the Lee County Medical Center.
“It’s difficult for me to say imma support that hospital. We’ll compete with it. Does Lee County support Phoebe Putney? If they build a hospital we’ll compete with them like McDonald’s competes with Burger King. We’re just doing a lot more important things than hamburgers and french fries.”
Steiner said Phoebe is following the law and believes others should too.
Previously, Phoebe was under Federal Trade Commission regulations. The FTC claimed the Albany Dougherty Hospital Authority’s purchase of the former Palmyra Medical Center created an illegal healthcare monopoly in the Albany area.
| More on the FTC, Phoebe settlement: FTC settles with Phoebe Putney |
Steiner said under those regulations, Phoebe could not object to one CON or could not make objections for five years. He said that term ended in March.
“We’re not under any FTC obligations to not object,” said Steiner.
“That’s no different than saying, you know, the law says I can sue you so I’m gonna sue you,” responded Mathis.
Phoebe believes Lee County is not getting enough work done to meet the requirements by law and Phoebe wants to hold them accountable for that.
Mathis said they are following the law and moving “full speed ahead” on the anticipated medical center and addressed the details inside the 26-page objection filed by Phoebe.
“There’s a lot of things they’ve gotten wrong but I think it’s moot at this point. We’ve met our implementation date which was June 21, so it was really a waste of time,” said Mathis.
The extension request has been dropped by Lee County leaders, thus dropping Phoebe’s objection with it.
Mathis said they have no pending CON extensions.
The medical center will be built on the former Grand Island Golf Course.
Mathis said work continues on the roughly 200-acre property.
He said a set of architectural plans, site work and a contractor’s agreement have all been done.
“But we’re back to the phase of working out a contract with an operator and during the COVID situation, obviously, for the past couple of months, nobody’s done any business-related activity when it comes to hospitals,” explained Mathis.
Mathis said currently site and drainage work is being done on the property.
Mathis was not able to provide any opening or groundbreaking dates at this time.
“Lee County has always supported Phoebe,” Mathis said. “We just want a choice in health care.”