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Deadline extended for dismissal paperwork in FTC/Dougherty Hospital Authority case

A federal judge has extended the deadline for a motion to dismiss to July 14

The deadline to file dismissal paperwork in relation to the purchase of Palmyra Medical Center, now known as Phoebe North, has been extended to July 14. (Albany Herald file photo)

The deadline to file dismissal paperwork in relation to the purchase of Palmyra Medical Center, now known as Phoebe North, has been extended to July 14. (Albany Herald file photo)

ALBANY — The deadline for the filing a motion to dismiss an order for preliminary injunction against the Hospital Authority of Albany-Dougherty County and Phoebe Putney Health System in regard to the Authority’s acquisition of the former Palmyra Medical Center has been extended for another month.

An order signed by U.S. District Court Judge Louis Sands was filed Friday afternoon stating that the parties involved now have until July 14 to file the necessary dismissal documents following review of the Federal Trade Commission’s unopposed motion to extend the deadline for filing the motion to dismiss. The deadline was Friday.

A spokesman from the FTC said Friday the agency had no comment on the extension. A spokeswoman at Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital said there would be no comment on the action.

A letter from the Georgia Department of Community Health received by North Albany Medical Center last week stated that Georgia’s Certificate of Need law would not prevent the sale or re-lease of the former Palmyra Medical Center, now known as Phoebe North, should the Federal Trade Commission order the Hospital Authority of Albany-Dougherty County to sell or get other management for the property.

The Authority purchased the former private hospital from Hospital Corporation of America for $195 million and contracted with Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital Inc. to operate the facility. In a letter sent on March 12, North Albany Medical Center asked the DCH for information on whether Georgia’s CON laws would prevent the sale or lease of the Phoebe North property. The Authority, FTC and Phoebe had reached an agreement last August that would allow the Authority to keep Phoebe North and have it operated by Phoebe, but the FTC has not finalized that agreement.

FTC officials have said the response to NAMC might impact the final agreement. On April 14, the FTC asked U.S. District Judge Louis Sands for a 60-day extension for filing documents necessary for dismissing an order for preliminary injunction against the Hospital Authority and Phoebe in regard to the Authority’s acquisition of the former Palmyra.

The proposed settlement announced last year would have allowed the Authority to retain possession of Phoebe North and lease it to Phoebe for management, while restricting Phoebe from objecting to DCH about any CON requests for a new acute care hospital in the six-counties comprising metro Albany and Mitchell County for five years. Phoebe, under the proposal, also would for 10 years not acquire without prior notification to the FTC any general acute case hospital, inpatient or outpatient clinic, or physician group of five doctors or more in the six counties. Phoebe and the Authority would stipulate the acquisition of Phoebe North might lessen competition within the market and Phoebe would provide the FTC with annual reports of its compliance for 10 years.

In its motion filed in April, FTC officials explained they were seeking the extension “because the Commission is still considering whether to make final the accepted consent agreement that settles the underlying administrative proceedings, and the consideration of this settlement may be informed by the DCH’s (Department of Community Health) response to to NAMC’s (North Albany Medical Center) request.”

Victor Moldovan, the attorney representing North Albany Medical Center, said last week that North Albany, which is based in Franklin, Tenn., has expressed interest in the property, but would wait until the FTC makes its decision to decide what to do.