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      Phoebe and Hospital Authority agree to halt integration of Palmyra

      Below is the press release issued by the Federal Trade Commission:

      The Hospital Authority of Albany-Dougherty County, Georgia, and Phoebe Putney defendants have agreed to halt the integration of the former Palmyra Park Hospital -- now known as Phoebe North -- with Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital, while an administrative law judge considers a Federal Trade Commission complaint challenging the merger as anticompetitive.

      In a federal court order entered by U.S. District Judge W. Louis Sands on June 5, 2013, the defendants also agreed to maintain the viability of Phoebe North until the completion of a full administrative trial on the merits and all related appeals. The order extends a similar temporary restraining order issued by the District Court last month. The administrative trial is scheduled to begin on August 5, 2013.

      The District Court was considering a complaint for preliminary relief filed by the FTC on April 20, 2011, which alleged that the deal would reduce competition substantially and allow the combined Phoebe/Palmyra to raise prices for general acute-care hospital services charged to commercial health plans, harming patients and local employers and employees.

      The Commission TMs complaint was previously dismissed by the District Court, and the dismissal was subsequently affirmed by U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit. However, on February 19, 2013, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled in favor of the FTC, reversing the Court of Appeals by finding that the state action doctrine did not immunize the hospital acquisition from the federal antitrust laws, and remanded the case to the District Court for further proceedings.

      Phoebe issued the following statement as a response:The preliminary injunction is procedural in nature and was agreed to by the parties and submitted to the judge for approval, said Tommy Chambless, senior vice president and general counsel, Phoebe Putney Health System. It is not a determination of the merits of the case and has no effect on the FTC TMs administrative proceeding. We hope that we will soon be able to move forward with our plans to improve Phoebe north campus and continue to provide the region with world-class medical care for women TMs and children TMs health issues.

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