Appeals Court backs Palmyra purchase

ALBANY — As first reported on albanyherald.com Friday evening, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has affirmed a decision made by U.S. District Court Judge Louis Sands in June that the Hospital Authority of Albany-Dougherty County is immune from federal intervention in its purchase of Palmyra Medical Center.

With that news, Palmyra could become Phoebe North in a week and a half.

“We are obviously excited and eager to move forward to what will lead to consolidation of the two hospitals in town,” said Phoebe CEO Joel Wernick. “This process has gone on for quite some time, but we believe the overall outcome will (result in) a benefit to the community.”

At a quickly called news conference Friday evening, it was announced that Tom Sullivan, a senior vice president at Phoebe, will serve as interim CEO of Palmyra.

It was also announced that the sale could go through in 10 days.

Tommy Chambless, general counsel at Phoebe, said that Ralph Rosenberg, chair of the Hospital Authority, was notified of the ruling late Friday afternoon.

“He was very excited,” Chambless said.

The Federal Trade Commission had asked the Appeals Court to overturn a ruling by Sands, who determined last summer that the sale was not subject to federal antitrust oversight.

In light of the ruling, Phoebe officials are preparing to take over the real estate title on Palmyra and bring on board its employees.

Richard Feinstein, director of the FTC Bureau of Competition, said in reaction to the ruling, “The Eleventh Circuit agrees with the Commission that this deal will create a monopoly and eliminate competition. We remain very concerned that it will raise health care costs dramatically in Albany, Ga. We are considering all our options.”

The agency contends the deal will allow the combined hospitals to raise prices for general acute-care medical services charged to commercial health plans, substantially harming patients and local employers and employees.

“There are some people we will never be able to convince,” Wernick said. “From a choice standpoint, we have gone from 1,500 employees to nearly 5,000 employees — so people have already chosen Phoebe.

“What will energize us is to convince those that are doubtful.”

When Wernick was asked Friday about dissenters saying the transaction would result in price-gauging, he said: “All I can say is: ‘Watch us.’ ”

The Hospital Authority last December empowered Phoebe Putney Health System to negotiate the purchase for $195 million. The authority has also determined that Phoebe would operate Palmyra as a not-for-profit facility that would be renamed Phoebe North.


whattheheck 3 years, 11 months ago

First Palmyra, next the world! Ya can't get enough Phoebe, right? Joel said it, "this is a good decision". How could you not agree?


JustMe11 3 years, 11 months ago

Recently, I was in Palmyra for the first time in years and this comment popped into my head. By the looks of Palmyra, they look like what a not for profit hospital should look like with the older furniture and decor. Phoebe looks like it should be the for profit hospital with all it's updated furniture and fancy setups. I hope that the FTC appeals this decision because if not this will be another nail in Albany's coffin. I am looking now to get my family the heck out up out of this area. P&G, Miller, or MCLB can turn the last one standing please turn out the lights to this city when you leave.


FlunkyMonkey 3 years, 11 months ago

The Court of Appeals has royally screwed Albany by giving Phoebe Putney a medical monopoly in Albany and the only ones who see it are the people who will have no choice but to pay what Phoebe asks for healthcare. Let's see, two hospitals in Albany, plus Sylvester, Camilla, Fitzgerald, Ashburn, and I know I am missing some. Yep, screwed again.


Trustbuster 3 years, 11 months ago

The 11th Circuit supports its friend Judge Sands in the ruling. The purpose behind the acquisition is to reduce competition and keep other potential rivals out in the name of "controlling healthcare costs." I hope that the FTC will appeal this case to the US Supreme Court so we will know once and for all the constitutionality of this practice by a so-called "nonprofit" entity. In conclusion I believe the appellate court erred in its decision. FTC appeal to the higher court!


procompetition 3 years, 11 months ago

what if ftc appeals to us supreme court, will this cancel the deal considering the 12/15/11 deadline?


procompetition 3 years, 11 months ago

the comment about people made their choice isnt accurate, phoebe control over atl lawmakers made the choice by blocking palmyra ability to offer medical services that they were guarding, any one of us could put any business in town out of operation if we were tax exempt and were able to block certain services that protected our own interest, so appeal decision isnt a surprise considering past history


Justice4Moma 3 years, 11 months ago

I myself do not care for the sale.I would rather have a choice.This is what Albany leaders want,for us to have no choice.Do as they like.Well they sure are getting there Christmas wishes,at the price of all of our RIGHTS.Write to your congressmen and women,if you can get them to read.But it is worth a try.We need a choice here. And for all the New Officals comming in,make sure you live up to your promises. And get rid of the good ole boy system.It is really getting old. All i wish for,for Christmas i know i will not get.For all i would like is Honest Officals.Stop the corruptness now.That goes for Mayors,City ATT,County leaders and City leaders.And even Judges,and Lawyers.Live up to your Oath,or the real Judge will make his Judgement when the time comes,and it s not that far away.Read the Bible,it s comming.I know where i am going.Do YOU?


Jack_Frost 3 years, 11 months ago

Dear Joel,
People didn't choose Phoebe. Phoebe did everything they could to make sure we didn't have a blasted choice in the first place! I want to see Albany become more than it is, but that will never happen if Phoebe get sole control over healthcare in Albany.
Albany is dead. Long live Phoebe-bany


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