The move may not be as controversial as you think.
On December 21, 2010 at the press conference to announce Phoebe's acquisition of Palmyra, Phoebe's CEO Joel Wernick said there would be no layoffs. However after that statement he also said that all Palmyra employees would have to meet all basic criteria required of current Phoebe employees.
Below is the full statement from the December press conference:
"We have no plans for any layoffs. I will also tell you that the folks at Palmyra will be new Phoebe employees just like someone who would come and apply today. And new Phoebe employees have to pass a screening test just like any of our Phoebe folks. As I tell people, I think the public is pleased to know that from me to the basement everybody here pees in the cup, to know that folks are safe. I don't know how better to put it. The fact of the matter is we do background checks on everybody and so these folks will be treated like any other qualified person. They'll be treated better in part because they already have a position and we have extended an obligation to go forward and employ these folks assuming that they're in a position to be employed because of no defect if you will from those parameters I just mentioned" says Wernick.
HCA has offered those 22 Palmyra employees severance packages or a position elsewhere in the company.