ALBANY ALBANY — It’s a done deal.
Officials with Phoebe Putney Health System announced Thursday that they had completed all the steps to legally acquire Palmyra Medical Center.
The final steps, which included a wire transfer of $195 million to Hospital Corporation of America, were completed at 1:30 p.m.
The action cleared the way for the Hospital Authority of Albany-Dougherty County to take possession of the recently purchased hospital, which will now be known as Phoebe North, at 12:01 a.m. today.
“We have been busy the last few days on the site of Palmyra,” said Phoebe CEO Joel Wernick. “There are a lot of things to work on as we transfer the property into the system.”
Since the acquisition was first announced on Dec. 21 of last year, Phoebe officials have been working on a plan to onboard the hospital — which included plans for the facility — until legal challenges, primarily from the Federal Trade Commission, were settled.
“We will refresh that process as we merge the best ideas,” Wernick said. “Our goal is to immediately address our capacity problems.”
Joe Austin, chief operating officer for the health system, said the process of determining the long-term plans for the facility will take a few months to complete. There have been outside parties brought in, such as architects, to help figure that out.
As for immediate future, things are expected to be the same.
“Over the last year, we have worked to get the operations ready for the transition,” Austin said. “The work leading up to this point has been tremendous.
“For the immediate future, (the hospital) will be operated as it is now. There is a great group of people over there. It is a high-quality hospital, and we expect to make no major changes.”
Officials expect the acquisition to allow Phoebe to address expansion of its intensive care services, which is often on divert status due to lack of space.
The patients currently at the Palmyra Road hospital should not notice a difference in overall operations either, officials say.
“The patients will go from being costumers of HCA to being customers of Phoebe North,” Wernick said. “Hopefully they will not have noticed that anything has taken place (overnight).”
Officials have been going through the process of signing employees up for benefits, and there have been meetings taking place with personnel to establish communication with them.
Aside from 22 Palmyra employees — some of whom were former Phoebe employees who left on bad terms — there is not expected to be any staff changes.
“We anticipate that all the employees there will become Phoebe employees,” Wernick said. “The people there will continue doing what they are doing now. There are no immediate plans for anyone to have different jobs.”
In regard to individuals whose health insurance plans have had Palmyra as an in-network hospital, Wernick said that all the contracts will be assumed by Phoebe, and details with the impacted insurance companies will be worked out.
He also indicated that the number of companies to negotiate with are now few in number.
“We actually tried to address most of the insurance plans before the transaction,” the CEO said. “(For those not yet settled), our goal is to expedite that conclusion.”
A ruling on Dec. 9 from the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, upholding a District Court ruling that the authority is immune from federal oversight by the FTC, opened the door for the sale to be completed.