So, you know that state law required our Hospital Authority to hold a public hearing last spring before awarding the management contract for Palmyra. (That very hospital our authority bought for $195 million out of their operating funds of, well, zero.) But did you know that our authority advertised the hearing exactly one time? Do you think that they could possibly have wanted to limit attendance at the hearing? Our authority? Surely not!
Even if you didn't attend, you must have heard, the turnout was huge! There was overwhelming opposition to the proposed plan to award Phoebe Putney a 40-year lease for the Palmyra facility for the amazing sum of $1 per year. Those few who did speak out in favor of the lease were in some way tied to Phoebe, hardly a resounding endorsement. You would probably think that the members of the authority would actually consider whether such a merger was in the best interests of our community.
Person after person arose to point out very compelling reasons to find a different lessor. How could it not matter that Phoebe has engaged in anticompetitive practices for so many years with impunity? How could it not matter that the FTC had asked the U.S. Supreme Court to rule on the legality of the Phoebe-Palmyra debacle? What was the rush to sign a lease? Shouldn't we at least wait until the Supreme Court decided whether or not to hear the case?
What about this one? Phoebe Putney, the one that offers "world-class medicine with a hometown commitment," has a less-than-exemplary record when it comes to quality of care. Or this one? It actually costs more than average to avail yourself of the less than average care provided by Phoebe.
Isn't it reasonable to think a hospital that has sought to squelch competition has an agenda that isn't in the best interest of the community?
As I stated earlier, the only Phoebe proponents who attended the hearing were in some way tied to Phoebe. And I do not mean that they were successfully treated at Phoebe. There were no satisfied consumers there, not a single one. There were Phoebe doctors, sons of those doctors, board members and employees. (All of the pro-Phoebe spokesmen were in the Phoebe pocket, so to speak.) Are we so ignorant in their estimation that they thought we would believe their support was spontaneous? And did they think for a minute that their motivation was not transparent?
If you attended the hearing, as the proceedings evolved you were probably one of many who noted with something approaching despair that even though many potentially negative outcomes to the Phoebe-Palmyra merger were outlined, every member of our Hospital Authority sat with bored far-away looks and not so much as a pretense of interest in the seriousness of the implications for the citizens whose interests they should represent. And when they quickly voted unanimously to proceed with the Phoebe lease at the earliest possible date, you surely realized that the hearing was a perfunctory exercise.
Why did they not even consider the possibility that another hospital management company might entertain the idea of a 40-year lease at $1 per year?
Then, this spring, when the Supreme Court of the United States of America decided unanimously against Phoebe, you must have thought our Hospital Authority would finally take its responsibility seriously and pursue courses of action other than granting an unbid contract to Phoebe.
Well, my friend, you were wrong. Our Hospital Authority has failed us, as they have sat indifferent to the fact that Phoebe has sought to circumvent the Supreme Court by changing Georgia law to allow some, but not all, county hospital authorities to enter into a monopolistic leasing agreement with a hospital management company. Do you see that the proposed law was tailor-made to fit the Phoebe situation? How could our authority sit back and allow Phoebe Putney to do that? The members of our Hospital Authority apparently either misunderstand their job or they don't care that Phoebe, in its arrogance, has decided to thumb its collective nose at the FTC, the U.S. Supreme Court and the citizens of our community who will be so adversely affected by their takeover of Palmyra.
Perhaps those on the authority with integrity should take this opportunity to resign. As to the others, we should recall every one of them. We should require our County Commission, which is complacent in this mess, to install a new authority that is independent of Phoebe's powerful influence, who understands the implications of selling out our interests to Phoebe Putney and who will oversee the proper delivery of health care at a reasonable price to our citizens.
Hope Campbell, an Albany native, was educated and has taught in Albany's public school system. As the owner of H. Campbell & Associates, a local interior design firm, she has been an employer in our community for many years. Mrs. Campbell lives in Albany with her husband, Bruce.