Friday, December 24, 2010

For-profit hospital bought by non-profit hospital in SW Georgia

The big medical news story in Southwest Georgia this Christmas season is that Phobe Putney hospital has bought out Palmyra Medical Center after years of coexistence in Albany, Georgia. I moved here recently and my experiences as a patient with Phobe Putney hospital and its employees have been good. I have no experiences with Palmyra Medical Center to be a basis of comparison, as a patient or otherwise. I am sure there must be a history of issues involving the two hospitals and local citizens that I do not know.

From what I see in the local media the reactions of local citizens to the news have not been positive. The common theme is that having two local hospitals produces competition which is good. That strikes me as, 1) not reflecting an understanding that competition is not the same in healthcare as in other industries, and 2) a cover for other sentiments that people may be unable or unwilling to fully express.

For what they may be worth, let me offer two thoughts. One, competition does not necessarily require the presence of two large general-service hospitals. Hospitals today increasingly are in competition with smaller, more-specialized entities. Two, the fact that there have been multiple litigations between Phoebe and Palmyra over the years means that a lot of money that could have been spent providing healthcare services has been spent for legal services. That kind of competition is costly.

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