Phoebe CEO answers Do. Co. Commissioners questions

Phoebe's CEO Joel Wernick talking to Dougherty County Commissioners

Dougherty County Commissioners have received a lot of feedback from their constituents since the announcement that Phoebe is buying Palmyra was announced in late December.

At Monday's meeting commissioners had the opportunity to ask questions. Chairman Jeff Sinyard says the commission had three main concerns. "The three concerns are always maintaining the quality of health care and keeping the pricing competitive, the second concern is keeping the tax base in place, and the third concern is making sure those folks that have jobs will keep their jobs" says Sinyard.

When it comes to keeping health care costs down Wernick says the streamlining of services will help reduce costs. He also says large local employers will be joining Phoebe's board to give local input on pricing. "These are people who are making their budgets and remaining competitive on the world stage. They are very much at the table and governing what actually happens. So the prices are being set by local citizens as they lead that organization not somebody a long way away who's not part of the local community" says Wernick.

One of the biggest concerns from the Dougherty County Commission is money and how the deal between Phoebe and Palmyra would affect the tax digest. Commissioner Lamar Hudgins says after seeing Mr.. Wernick's presentation he feels a lot better about the financial contribution from Phoebe. "We won't get taxes from Phoebe, but according to Mr.. Wernick we'll be receiving payment in lieu of taxes for the same amount. So that fact is very important to me" says Hudgins.

When FOX 31 News asked Wernick if he planned to continue the half a million dollar payment on a yearly basis when he wasn't legally required to he says the payment will continue forever. "I don't want to come back to the county commission and them say to me "Hey, where's this year's payment?" Our commitment is ongoing" says Wernick.

The last major concern from the commission was jobs. Wernick says as long as the current Palmyra employees meet all of the criteria and pass the same background check that current Phoebe employees do - they will find a job for them, but it will take a little time and flexibility. "We do know that there's a lot of very qualified hard working folks there and our goal is to make sure that we remain at full employment" says Wernick. The employment offer even includes Dr. John Bagnato who has had a challenging past with Phoebe. "There's no plans for him not to be on the Phoebe staffâ|You know rivalry is a very interesting thing. What we're looking forward to is to take this rivalry and refocus that energy into Albany very much being on the map as a place that people want to come to get their health care" says Bagnato.

After the presentation was complete and all commissioners' questions were answered, Chairman Sinyard says this move could prove to be positive for Southwest Georgia. "If we make sure those three things are in play and we continue to be positive in moving this community forward. I think it can be a positive thing for Albany and Dougherty County and this entire southwest Georgia region" says Sinyard.

There are still a lot of details that have to be hammered out, and FOX 31 will keep you updated every step of the way.