Industry hopeful about buyout

ALBANY, Ga. -- Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital's $195 million acquisition of Palmyra Medical Center has been the buzz of the community, and representatives of two of the largest private employers in the county say they are hopeful the merger will have a positive impact.

MillerCoors Plant Manager Timothy Dill and Procter & Gamble External Affairs Director Vince Falcione were each asked his opinions on what the acquisition might mean for his company's heath care costs and quality of service.

"I think it is a tremendous opportunity for Phoebe Putney and Southwest Georgia," Dill said. "I have experienced both a major acquisition as well as the joint venture between Miller and Coors and found the benefits of each of these business moves to be extraordinary.

"The synergies that arise from a combination of two solid organizations can bring best practices to the new organization that improve both efficiency and operational execution, both of which should translate into a better experience for everyone. I wish them success in this new venture."

In 2007, Falcione was a member of a group which contended the Albany P&G plant's health care costs were out of line with the company's other plants around the country. The group, led by former plant manager Tim Bloodworth, pointed out that costs at the Albany plant were 61.9 percent higher than a similar plant in Augusta.

At that time P&G officials said they were as concerned about the negative impact of high healthcare costs on the company and other residents of Southwest Georgia.

Falcione, while expressing hope that Phoebe's acquisition would benefit the entire region, was reserved in his comments.

"In general, we believe healthy competition between those delivering services or product results in better quality and better cost/value for the consumer, and hope that will be the case for all of us in Albany," Falcione said. "We are looking forward to seeing how this move will help improve both quality and costs for the community.

"Beyond that, we can't speculate."

On Monday, Phoebe CEO Joel Wernick told the Doughtery County Commission that because of a shortage of beds, Phoebe was faced with the choice of either building a new facility in Albany or acquiring Palmyra and its properties, which he said was the cheaper of the two options.

Wernick said he expects Phoebe to be closing on the acquisition by the end of the month.