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Officials’ sights still set on expanding at Phoebe North

Tracy Morgan, vice president of women’s and children’s services at Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital, gives an overview to the Dougherty County Kiwanis Club Monday on the plans that have been set for Phoebe North.

Tracy Morgan, vice president of women’s and children’s services at Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital, gives an overview to the Dougherty County Kiwanis Club Monday on the plans that have been set for Phoebe North.

ALBANY, Ga. — Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital officials shared with an area civic club what the plans are for the former Palmyra Medical Center, assuming Phoebe officials are successful in their ongoing legal battle with the Federal Trade Commission.

Tracy Morgan, vice president of women’s and children’s services at Phoebe, gave an overview to the Dougherty County Kiwanis Club Monday regarding the need for a new women’s and children’s center — which is the current plan in place for the hospital now known as Phoebe North Campus.

Morgan said that the decision to make the hospital into a freestanding women’s and children’s center stemmed from the lack of space to improve and expand at the main campus. Gynecology surgical services, breast health, plastic surgery as well as a private-room neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) set up are among the things Morgan said officials plan to incorporate into the campus.

The benefits of a more private NICU space, Morgan said, could potentially include an increase in breastfeeding rates, a reduction in infection rates, increased weight gain and more space for parents and family members to visit.

“There is a lot of new evidence that we can provide better service with private NICU space,” she said.

“...It is one of the largest units in the hospital. There are so many people that touch patients (and make an impact) in the NICU.”

Phoebe’s NICU is currently staffed by 100 people and sees roughly 750 admissions over the course of a year. Phoebe now functions as a regional perinatal center that serves 22 counties, Morgan said.

Morgan also presented concepts for the maternity rooms as well as the NICU rooms, which have been partly inspired by visits to similar centers in other parts of the country including Chicago, Dallas and Birmingham, Ala.

The concepts have also been drawn with the theory in mind that a pediatric patient’s increased exposure to the natural elements, including sunlight, helps in terms of reducing pain and stress as well as a patient’s length of stay.

“This is not just about technological advances, but things that speak to the child...things that make them feel more comfortable,” Morgan said.

Special plans for the facility may potentially include walking trails for children, as well as sculptures and water features on the outside of the building, Morgan said.

“Hopefully we will be able to go forward and expand these services,” Morgan said.

In the meantime, Phoebe as well as the Hospital Authority of Albany-Dougherty County are still entangled in a legal battle with the FTC regarding the December 2011 purchase of the Palmyra Road facility.

With the administrative trial set to begin on Aug. 5, the most recent major development has been a ruling from U.S. District Judge Louis Sands on May 15 that issued a temporary restraining order which enjoined the Hospital Authority and the Phoebe Putney Health System from taking any further steps to consolidate the system’s two Albany hospitals in order to preserve the “status quo” pending the outcome of the administrative proceedings.

Regardless of the outcome of those proceedings, Phoebe officials say the space to expand has to come from somewhere.

“If it (Phoebe North) is not a possibility, we will have to look at another way,” Morgan said. “We will just have to look at a Plan B.”

The restraining order is expected to remain in effect until there is a ruling from a June 14 hearing regarding the FTC’s motion for a preliminary injunction. This follows renewed motions the federal agency filed in the U.S. Court for the Middle District of Georgia in April based on contentions the $195 acquisition 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 area employers and employees.