Yesterday, news broke that Phoebe Putney has lost its bid to become the sole hospital in town. In a rare unanimous decision, the Supreme Court ruled that the purchase of Palmyra violated anti-trust rules, despite the fact that the Hospital Authority technically bought the hospital. The question remains of what this actually means for Albany.
First, I’m not a lawyer. I never played one on TV, nor did I stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night. However, I’ve followed the Supreme Court for a while, so this is based on past observation. I wholeheartedly welcome input from folks more knowledgeable than I on such matters.
Generally, when the Supreme Court rules that something is unconstitutional, then it basically ceases to be. That seems to me to mean that the hospital is still owned by HCA. Of course, HCA owes the Hospital Authority some money. That is, in theory at least. However, it’s also clear that HCA has no interest in remaining in Albany. Sure, they were offered an insane amount of money for the hospital, and now that they have the certificate of need for birthing services, they finally got what they wanted here, but I wouldn’t hold my breath on them wanting to come back. I hope I’m wrong on that front though, since they were a pretty good hospital.
The Supreme Court’s decision wasn’t so much about the Hospital Authority’s ability to buy the hospital per se, but the fact that it leaves us with just one hospital to service the needs of our community – a hospital, I might add, that many in the community find as out of network for their insurance. This means that the Hospital Authority could, at least in theory, lease the building to another company. This would give us a second hospital, though there’s no guarantee that the new hospital would be in network for those in our community who find Phoebe isn’t.
Either way, the monopoly for healthcare in Albany has officially been killed. There are no more appeals, no more legal maneuvering. Phoebe has had their wings clipped, and that’s just where it is. It also means that there are now options for the people of Southwest Georgia who seek medical treatment in Albany. Phoebe has been suspiciously quiet since the decision was handed down, no doubt because they were sure they would win. Unfortunately for them, the winners were really the people of Albany.