Regardless of your opinion of the ongoing battle between Phoebe Putney Health System and the Federal Trade Commission over the fate of Phoebe North (the former Palmyra Medical Center), the uncertainty surrounding the issue is a hindrance to economic development in the metro Albany area.
Business leaders, when making plans for their companies, need to have a solid idea about where things are headed, and health care is one of those critical areas that has to be carefully calculated. That is one of the issues that has come from President Obama’s Affordable Care Act. Businesses still do not know exactly how they will be affected. Some have taken steps — such as cutting the number of employees and hours worked to fall under thresholds that trigger some aspects of the act — that they otherwise would not have as defensive measures.
The current plans are to convert Phoebe North into a Children’s and Women’s Center, a medical endeavor that would significantly benefit our region. And if Phoebe prevails in the FTC’s challenge to its purchase of Phoebe North on the behalf of the Hospital Authority of Albany-Dougherty County, the U.S. District Court injunction given to the FTC last week to enforce a “status quo” situation at Phoebe North will delay that project at minimum three months. That, in turn, will impact and delay other projects the hospital is planning.
We don’t know what will happen down the road. Hospital Corporation of America has its money for the former Palmyra hospital and has left town. If an FTC administrative judge rules that the Phoebe North property must be sold, there’s no guarantee that another medical company will acquire it with the intentions of operating a full-service hospital.
It just makes sense for the community to have a resolution to this and to get the federal government out of it. Phoebe is a key economic driver in the greater Albany area, one that provides thousands of jobs. Metro Albany is desperate for economic growth and Phoebe is a primary driver of the local economy.
The sooner this situation is resolved, the better for everyone. Rather than spending millions of dollars on attorneys fighting federal government agencies, the region, which is lagging in the nation’s recovery from the recession, needs for Phoebe to focus on creating growth in the metro Albany area.