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FTC files new motions to stop merger of hospitals (UPDATE with FTC response)

The FTC is moving to lift a stay on a review of the Hospital Authority of Albany-Dougherty County's purchase of the former Palmyra Medical Center, now known as Phoebe North Campus.

The FTC is moving to lift a stay on a review of the Hospital Authority of Albany-Dougherty County's purchase of the former Palmyra Medical Center, now known as Phoebe North Campus.

ALBANY, Ga. — The Federal Trade Commission has filed renewed motions in its ongoing litigation related to the now consummated acquisition of the former Palmyra Medical Center, now Phoebe North Campus.

In filing the motions in the U.S. Court for the Middle District of Georgia, the FTC is seeking a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction to stop the further integration of Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital and Phoebe North as a means to ensure Palmyra’s assets are maintained until an administrative trial, scheduled for Aug. 5, is conducted on the merits of the acquisition.

“As the Transaction is now consummated, we request that this Court enjoin any further integration of the acquired hospital’s assets and operations, and preserve the status quo at Phoebe North (formerly Palmyra), pending the outcome of the Commission’s expedited administrative proceeding,” the amended complaint states.

“... The ongoing administrative proceeding will determine the legality of the Transaction, subject to judicial review by a federal Court of Appeals, and provides a forum for all parties to conduct full discovery and present evidence regarding the likely effects of the Transaction and any affirmative defenses raised,” the FTC said.

On April 20, 2011, the FTC filed an action in U.S. District Court seeking to block the then-proposed combination of the two hospitals. The FTC contended the deal would reduce competition significantly and allow for a rise in prices for general acute-care hospital services charged to commercial health plans, harming patients and local employers and employees.

The agency further contended that the transaction positioned the Hospital Authority of Albany-Dougherty County as a strawman to shield the acquisition from federal antitrust scrutiny.

Officials at Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital say the requested action would prevent any improvements or renovations planned for the facility to enhance patient care for the residents served by the hospital.

Phoebe officials also say that before this latest filing, the FTC, on two separate occasions, refused Phoebe’s offer to “stand down” and do nothing to alter the facility pending further administrative proceedings in Washington, D.C.

“We will proceed to protect the organization and community interests in court. It’s unfortunate that so many resources must be committed by Phoebe, interfering with the Phoebe mission to deliver the best possible care and exceed the expectations of all we serve,” said Tommy Chambless, Phoebe senior vice president and general counsel, in a statement.

“The Hospital Authority of Albany-Dougherty County purchased the former Palmyra Medical Center from Hospital Corporation of America (HCA). This transaction involving a willing seller and buyer occurred because Phoebe has a need for the space to expand its women’s and children’s services including neonatal services, to enhance trauma care for Southwest Georgia, to meet long term acute care needs in our part of the state, and to address capacity needs for the delivery of intensive care and rehabilitation care, among other healthcare objectives, all to better meet the growing and demonstrated needs of the community.”

A spokesman for the FTC responded to The Albany Herald's request for further comment after presstime Thursday stating that the agency would not be making any additional comment.

On June 27, 2011, U.S. District Judge Louis Sands ruled that the $195 million purchase was immune from federal oversight. The FTC appealed to the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which affirmed the district court’s ruling the following December — allowing the acquisition go through.

The FTC appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. On Feb.19, the high court ruled unanimously that the state action doctrine did not give antitrust law immunity for the hospital acquisition and remanded the case to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals. Shortly after the ruling, the commission moved to lift the stay of administrative proceedings that had been issued on July 15, 2011.

That motion was granted on March 14, at which time the commission pushed to have a hearing begin no later than July 15. Documents available on the FTC’s website show that Phoebe filed a motion to delay the start of the hearings until December.

That motion was denied, but a three-week extension was granted, the documents show.

Comments

Amazed2 1 year, 3 months ago

I want to see Big Brother figure out how to make HCA go back in business and restaff an entire Hospital and be willing to operate a for profit corporation at a loss.

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Cartman 1 year, 3 months ago

This is great news! So glad to hear that the FTC hasn't given up the fight. I'm definitely cheering for the FTC on this one!

At least someone is opposing this local tyranny. Too bad we didn't have the means locally to clean up our mess.

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VietVet1 1 year, 3 months ago

Sure would be nice to have a QUALITY hospital back in Albany!

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RedEric 1 year, 3 months ago

Typical government work! Nothing gets accomplished except disbursement of money to various law groups. Locally this means wheelbarrow loads, nationally it means freight train loads. Government work is better than a new Microsoft.

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jglass 1 year, 3 months ago

I'm thinking in the long run, it won't matter, Phoebe will have that hospital lock, stock, and barrell. I am just wondering all the patients now using "Phoebe's North Campus", is the billing all in one at Phoebe? I have seen bills from Phoebe and they have Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital on them. Now the bills that come from "Phoebe's North Campus" still have Palmyra listed and the billings are not locally from Phoebe. Are the patients going to be ripped off?

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FryarTuk 1 year, 3 months ago

Maybe PPHS will have Palmyra, "lock, stock and barrel" as you say but there is also another resolution. Remove all the neutered members of the Hospital Authority. Under federal court or FTC supervision appoint a disinterested party to select a new potent hospital authority commission. Then remove Palmyra as a separate entity under the ownership of the Authority. Designate it as a specialty facility or a general hospital with a completely independent administration. Divide PPMH from PPHS. The latter to be become a PPOS or HMO consortium. All units are independently managed answering to a Hospital Authority with brass ones. SAYONARA, Joel, Kerry and the multimillionaires' club. Folks this could work. The one thing though is to keep the City Commissioners, County Commissioners and County Attorney 151 miles from anything to do with the new facility or systems. That, dear friends, will thread the needle.

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Amazed2 1 year, 3 months ago

Looks like to me there may be a big empty building on Palmyra Road and about 300 people lined up in the unemployment line. Good Luck Big Brother!

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