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Phoebe hearing attracts large crowd

An overflow crowd jams into the Government Center Thursday morning as the Albany-Dougherty Hospital Authority holds a public hearing on a request from Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital to lease management rights to Phoebe North for 40 years at $1 per year.

An overflow crowd jams into the Government Center Thursday morning as the Albany-Dougherty Hospital Authority holds a public hearing on a request from Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital to lease management rights to Phoebe North for 40 years at $1 per year.

ALBANY, Ga. — An overflow crowd packed the commission meeting room at the Albany Government Center Thursday morning as the Hospital Authority of Albany-Dougherty County conducted a public hearing to hear opinions on a request by Phoebe Putney Hospital to lease the former Palmyra Medical Center campus for the next 40 years at a price of $1 a year.

The meeting room could not accommodate the crowd, and some of those attending were moved to a second room where they were provided with live audio of the hearing.

Speakers were not allowed to directly ask questions of the authority members.

The Authority purchased Palmyra last year from Hospital Corporation of America (HCA) for $195 million and staved off several regulatory challenges from the Federal Trade Commission before renaming Palmyra to Phoebe North.

The hearing lasted for more than three hours and more than 30 people took the podium to either pan and praise the proposed lease deal.

One of the first to speak in favor of the lease was local attorney Faison Middleton, who said Phoebe has an excellent track record of managing the Hospital Authority's assets.

"I endorse the lease to Phoebe, though the focus of my comments will be on Phoebe's commitment to this community," Middleton said. "There are many organizations in Albany that would not be the assets they are today without Phoebe."

Corleen Thompson, a physician who sued to block the merger between Phoebe and Palmyra, said the authority should consider taking bids on the management services to see what kinds of deals are available and questioned how a not-for-profit entity could come up so easily with $225 million.

"How does a non-profit like Phoebe come up with an available $225 million for acquisition of three different properties?" Thompson asked. "Remember that prices usually increase after mergers. It's proven that competition is the best thing for reducing prices.

"The welfare of all the citizens of Dougherty County depend upon your actions."

Hope Campbell then weighed in, tongue-lashing the authority members.

"I am astounded by the lack of effort you have taken to research this matter," said Campbell. "You have a fiduciary responsibility to do due diligence in regard to options other than giving Phoebe a monopoly.

"Why did it take the FTC to recognize what you did not — the need to protect our citizens from an over-reaching hospital?"

Palmyra Emergency Center Director Dawn Singleton thinks granting of the lease will be good for Albany.

"My staff has continued to function as it always has." said Singleton. "Some very positive things have happened since the transition. I think that Phoebe is now more invested in our community than ever before."

Phoebe Chief Medical Officer Doug Patton then said, "We have been good stewards of the assets of Phoebe and we'll now be good stewards of Phoebe North."

State Sen. George Hooks, D-Americus, praised Phoebe for coming to the aid of Americus after a 2007 tornado destroyed South Georgia Regional Medical Center.

"Our hospital was wiped out by the tornado and Phoebe came in and helped us build the finest under-100-bed hospital in the United States," Hooks said. "This proposal will help the taxpayers and help the state budget."

Dougherty County Commissioner Jack Stone also was in favor of granting the lease.

"HCA never did a thing to help the Dougherty Commission when we were paying millions for indigent care," said Stone."All those years we were putting up our money, and we've been in a tight the last few years. I hope that Phoebe will step up and help Dougherty County like we stepped up and helped Phoebe."

Albany resident Amanda Green, however, wasn't buying into the proposed lease.

"It's all about choices and we don't have any choices now, do we?" asked Green. "Phoebe wants to take all our choices from us. Sure, they will see and treat anybody, I'll give them that. But they will bill you and they will garnish your check.

"Anything they do we all wind up paying for it."

At the end of the hearing Phoebe President and Ceo Joel Wernick addressed the authority.

"The Palmyra acquisition is required to continue the authority's growth strategy," Wernick said. "It will allow for the orderly expansion of vital clinical departments with acute restrictions of space, such as intensive care units, including the only level three neo-natal intensive care unit in South Georgia.

"It will allow for the development of a 'designated' regional trauma center. It will allow for the continued expansion of Phoebe as a teaching hospital where future doctors, nurses, pharmacists and others are educated ... allowing them to live and work where they grew up — right here in Southwest Georgia."

Comments

Sister_Ruby 1 year, 11 months ago

I thought about going down there but, being a Major Prophetess, I knew what I would find...that Phoebe would pack the room and the speaker list with their employees, politicians, and well-connected bidnessmens and others who will profit from Phoebe's continued monopolization of health care in Albany. But would any of them give one single reason WHY the lease should be approved? Not likely....because there are LOTS of reasons NOT to approve it. ANYBODY with half a brain (and there's a lot of you out there!) knows in your HEART that a MONOPOLY is the wrong way to go. But grab your socks, it's going to happen.

Phoebe employees, didn't you enjoy getting a paid day away from work? So nice!

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Momof3 1 year, 11 months ago

I absolutely love reading your posts. May not always agree but I sure would like to meet you one day. lol

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ObjectiveEyes 1 year, 11 months ago

Middleton, Middleton, now, where have I heard that name before? Oh yeah, now I remember! There was once a Phoebe executive named "Middleton" drawing some exorbitant salary. Me thinks he is a Phoebe plant. I'm like Sister_Ruby, I was not going to waste my time watching another Phoebe dog and pony show.

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Cartman 1 year, 11 months ago

Faison Middleton is a great guy. However he is in the same firm that Phoebe's "in-house" private counsel, Tommy Chambless came from, so I'm not sure if he is really an objective voice.

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Citizen_A 1 year, 11 months ago

We can campaign for the HA to put the lease out for bid, but is there any qualified candidates large enough to go against Phoebe? I am wondering because no one has mentioned any. I think the monopoly needs to be prevented, but is it possible?

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Cartman 1 year, 11 months ago

I'd love to see someone come in and compete with Phoebe. It is just wishful thinking at this point. No one in their right minds would come compete against a rigged deck. It does provide some degree of satisfaction however to see the community come together in a display against these tyrants. Tyranny should be resisted at every opportunity. We can do so by not using the name "Phoebe North", but continuing to use "Palmyra" instead. I will also refer to "Phoebe" as "Palmyra South".

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MRKIA 1 year, 11 months ago

INSTEAD OF ALLOWING THE HA TO DECIDE WHY CANT THE COUNTY VOTERS DECIDE WHO WILL RUN PALMYRA. I MIGHT BE OVERSIMPLIFYING BUT IF, AS SOME WOULD SUGGEST, THE HA IS A PUBLIC ENTITY THEN THE HA SHOULD WHAT THE PUBLIC WANTS. SPEND THE MONEY TO LET THE PUBLIC VOTE.

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Kay523 1 year, 11 months ago

Lets face it - this is a product of the County Commission - is anyone challenging Lamar Hudgens, Gloria Gaines, Murlean Edwards, et al? All complaint and no action.

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KaosinAlbany 1 year, 11 months ago

Thank you for your comment. I have been thinking the same thing. Putting complaints into action is one thing but to complain with no action is just pointless. People get off your rump and run for office and try to make a change for the better.

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Sister_Ruby 1 year, 11 months ago

Could somebody who endured the whole thing please give us a recap. No Phoebe PR folks, please, just an average citizen who was not compensated for being there. Thanks!

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Terry.Lewis 1 year, 11 months ago

Ruby, in plain English, it rocked back and forth between a Phoebe bash-fest and a Phoebe pep rally.

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Sister_Ruby 1 year, 11 months ago

From reading the report above (which was expanded during the day) I began to ask myself "If the hearing was about hearing from the public......why was there a constant stream of Phoebe employees, heads of various Phoebe Boards, Administrative VPs, and Phoebe-linked-at-the-hip Doctors and Lawyers dominating the speaker's podium? Why not hear from the Public instead? I think we all knew what those "Phoebe-linked entities" would be saying??!!

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Terry.Lewis 1 year, 11 months ago

They are also members of "the public."

I also think this was a mere formality because the hearing is required by law.

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Sister_Ruby 1 year, 11 months ago

Yes they certainly are both "members of the public" and are "employed by Phoebe". But did they speak as a member of the public....or were they there presenting Phoebe propoganda? It's ridiculous for a Phoebe employee or executive to stand up there in a public hearing to spout Phoebe propoganda or sing the praises of Phoebe etc ad nauseum and not address the specific reason for the meeting which was the lease proposal. Oh well, it's a done deal anyway so we all just need to grab our socks.

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Jacob 1 year, 11 months ago

Heck, Terry, it almost sound like you are saying the meeting was a sham. a contest between Phoebe's whores and the people who pay Phoebe to provide the "service" that they do to/for Albany. Is Joel and headho Ken the boss madams?

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Terry.Lewis 1 year, 11 months ago

I think the outcome is a foregone conclusion.

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ObjectiveEyes 1 year, 10 months ago

Terry, do you have a list of people who spoke? Would you publish their names and which "side of the fence" they fell? Just wondering...

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justme 1 year, 11 months ago

If the hearing is required by law, why can't the public ask questions of folks in charge, as this is a "AT WILL" work state, why can we,the public the owners of the hospital dump the persons looking to control the entire town? Or at least have some kind of voice in this matter.

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tduncanspradley 1 year, 10 months ago

i was at the hearing and at least 65% of the people there wore phoebe badges....it was ridiculous! My mom Amanda Green and I were there and we would love to be a voice for the citizens, but like the above comment we are just citizens of the community does our voice really count? If they really wanted to hear the citizens the meeting would not have been at 10am when the citizens are at work and it would not have been swamped wiith phoebe employees and board members doing all the talking. every average citizen that spoke was opposed but yet in the herald you have most of the comments from the ones who were for phoebe when the opposed far out weighed the ones who were for the lease. I was amazed when it was brought up about the deaths that happen in the ER waiting room. was not surprised as my autn waited 8 hours in the waiting room by the time she was seen they had to take her in for emergency surgery. The speaker also stated that the infection rate in phoebe was high and a lot of the deaths are the hospitals fault b/c after surgery they get staph infections etc. but thats not reported. etc. It was a very educational meeting.....

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beartrap 1 year, 10 months ago

everybody knows that the board members are nothing but "bought and paid for yes men"...I would like to know how much they are paid each year and what perks they receive.....

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LieDetector00 1 year, 10 months ago

Phoebe is like that bully in middle school who never gets in trouble because his Daddy is the head football coach and gives a great deal of financial support to the private school which he attends. Yeah, it's like that.

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Outtahere 1 year, 10 months ago

"Speakers were not allowed to directly ask questions of the authority members."

Why??

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Trustbuster 1 year, 10 months ago

The large turnout for the hearing demonstrates the local community concerns over the hospital board and Phoebe practices. A recycled politician's praises doesn't count when you look closely at the hospital's finances that includes off-shore bank accounts and lavish offices for the CEO and his lackeys. The federal court system is unfortunately protecting Phoebe's noncompetitive practices. I hope that SCOTUS (Supreme Court of the US) will hear the cause and over turn the lower court's decisions but I'm not optimistic because of the legal precedent established under the Slaughterhouse Cases. For the record not all monopolies are wrong so long as the market is allowed to work efficiently for consumers and producers. Phoebe is a govt. sponsored monopoly that is determined to protect itself from competitors sanctioned by the hospital authority.

Dr. Stubbs and others are correct in their assertion that the competitive bidding process should be opened for the betterment of the marketplace. Go Dr. Joe!

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Cartman 1 year, 10 months ago

Someone please explain a few things to me:
The HA bought the property from HCA?
If so, who negotiated the sales price?
Did us taxpayers grossly overpay HCA? I thought it was worth substantially less than $195m.
It is paid for with bonds? Was there a public hearing prior to the issuance of the bonds?
If the HA owns the property, then under what authority did Joel Wernick agree to pay the equivalent in property taxes that HCA paid?
And where will this property tax money come from?
Are will still operating under the fiction that the HA actually has a decision to make, regarding to whom it will lease OUR property?
This charade is ridiculous.

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ObjectiveEyes 1 year, 10 months ago

Yes, "us taxpayers" overpaid for HCA. I'm pretty sure it was paid for with bonds. Joel agreed to pay the equivalent in taxes because no one on the HA BOD will challenge him on anything. They are "yes" men that go along with anything the PPMH execs want them to do. The entire lot of them should resign in shame. They continue to do a gross disservice to our community. Of course, JW doesn't care. He's made his fortune and doesn't have to "work" another day in his life. All of that at a "community, not-for-profit" hospital in the heart of one of the poorest Congressional districts in the US.

p.s.Haven't you figured out that JW does whatever he wants to do, to whomever he chooses, whenever he wants to do it? HE is the one that should be ridden back to Arkansas (sue-eee) on a rail. He has single-handingly destroyed the core of this community. If you don't believe it, watch "Do No Harm."

And, anyone that believes that yesterday's "dog and pony" show had even one iota of impact on the HA decision, well, I'm sorry, but, you are delusional.

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