ALBANY — It appears the road is clear for Palmyra Medical Center to provide basic maternity services — if it wants to.
Last week, the Georgia Supreme Court denied a petition for writ of certiorari filed by Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital regarding a decision by the state Court of Appeals that overturned superior court rulings and affirmed the certificate of need that the Department of Community Health awarded Palmyra, enabling the private hospital to provide obstetrical services. The Appeals Court in July overturned rulings made by superior court judges in Dougherty County and Sumter County in 2010 that had reversed the DCH’s decision to give Palmyra a certificate of need, or CON, to provide basic perinatal services. Phoebe Putney and Phoebe Sumter filed appeals of that ruling shortly afterward, but last week, the state Supreme Court said it would not hear the appeal — effectively affirming the Appeals Court’s ruling in favor of Palmyra and the Georgia Department of Community Health.
Eric Riggle, spokesman for Palmyra, said that officials with the hospital are happy with the ruling, but are awaiting a decision on Palmyra’s potential sale to the Hospital Authority of Albany-Dougherty County before moving ahead.
“We are pleased there is an option to pursue bringing this service to our patient care offerings. Going forward, Palmyra will await the results of the proposed hospital sale before determining how to best proceed,” he said.
Pamela Keene, media and public relations manager for DCH, told The Albany Herald that, as far as the agency is concerned, Phoebe’s appeal regarding Palmyra’s CON is over and Palmyra can move forward with providing obstetrical services.
Phoebe officials said they were hopeful that the issue will be resolved by the consummation of the deal to buy Palmyra. If the purchase goes through, the Hospital Authority has said it will contract with Phoebe to operate Palmyra, which would be renamed Phoebe North.
“We are disappointed in the court’s decision on this matter and we are reviewing this,” said Jackie Ryan, vice president of strategy at Phoebe. “Ultimately, we are hopeful that this issue will become moot when the Hospital Authority’s acquisition of Palmyra Medical Center is completed.”
The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is currently weighing in on the sale of Palmyra the county following a ruling from U.S. District Court Judge Louis Sands in June that the authority was immune from intervention from the Federal Trade Commission with regard to the transaction.
The $195 million buyout was announced late last December. In April, the FTC and Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens asked the federal court for an injunction to hold up the acquisition until the FTC could review it for any federal antitrust violations.
Following the ruling by Sands in favor of Phoebe, the FTC appealed that decision to the federal Appeals Court. Olens’ office did not take part in the appeal.