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Hospital board, authority OK settlement

Kimberly Fields, a member of the Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital board, listens as Tommy Chambless, senior vice president and general counsel for Phoebe Putney Health System, gives an overview on the recent Federal Trade Commission settlement. The board formally approved the settlement at a called meeting on Monday. (Jennifer Parks).

Kimberly Fields, a member of the Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital board, listens as Tommy Chambless, senior vice president and general counsel for Phoebe Putney Health System, gives an overview on the recent Federal Trade Commission settlement. The board formally approved the settlement at a called meeting on Monday. (Jennifer Parks).

ALBANY — Four days following a settlement with the Federal Trade Commission that will allow Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital to continue to operate its former cross-town rival, the hospital board on Monday formally approved the settlement.

The Hospital Authority also conducted a called meeting at 4 p.m. Monday. The settlement documents were approved unanimously there as well.

The FTC is currently in a 30-day commenting period that continues through late September. Once that period is over, the agency will decide whether to finalize the agreement.

Meanwhile, the hospital’s professional affairs committee also met Monday to consider another round of medical staff applicants to the hospital.

Consideration of the settlement was approved unanimously following a closed session lasting roughly 30 minutes.

“Under the law, a vote needs to be taken in open session (to approve the settlement),” said Tommy Chambless, senior vice president and general counsel for Phoebe Putney Health System, following the vote. “It is a binding legal document as far as the Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital board is concerned.”

Under the terms of the settlement, announced Thursday afternoon, the Hospital Authority of Albany-Dougherty County will retain ownership of Phoebe North, formerly Palmyra Medical Center, and it will continue to be operated by Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital. As part of the settlement, Phoebe and the Authority have agreed to not acquire, without prior notification to the FTC, a general acute care hospital, an inpatient or outpatient clinic or facility or a physician group practice of five or more physicians within the six-county region considered relevant to the case — Dougherty, Terrell, Lee, Worth, Baker and Mitchell counties — for the next 10 years.

Phoebe and the Authority also agreed, for the next five years, to not file any objections with the Georgia Department of Community Health to the issuance of a Certificate of Need (CON) for a new general acute care hospital in the six-county region. The two parties are not restricted from objecting to CON applicants for other projects, but have agreed to provide a copy of any such objection to the FTC.

Also, Phoebe agreed to provide annual reports of its compliance with these provisions for the next decade. Phoebe and the Authority have stipulated that the acquisition of Palmyra, completed in December 2011 at a price of $195 million, might substantially lessen competition within the relevant service and geographic markets.

Immediately following the hospital board meeting was a monthly meeting of the professional affairs committee.

As a new cycle of physicians enter the work force during the late summer, more doctors are putting up their names for consideration. Partly because of that, there were 16 medical staff applicants listed on the report presented to the committee on Monday.

The same report was considered by the credentials/bylaws committee on July 22, and the hospital’s medical executive committee on Aug. 6. The list includes six physicians looking to come on into the critical care specialty. Cardiology, general surgery, obstetrics and gynecology, radiology and emergency medicine are among the other specialties being represented.

The report also includes a note about new thoracic surgeon Dr. Curtis Quinn, which said that he meets the criteria for the robotic assisted thoracic surgery as well as the requirements for the electromagnetic navigation bronchoscopy procedure.