An Aug. 13 email from the Kingsport Chamber of Commerce titled “A Message from Our Mayor: Community Forum Concerning the Future of Local Hospitals” marked the beginning of a high-profile effort to influence Wellmont’s merger strategy. Since that day, and particularly following an Aug. 18 community forum in Kingsport, the campaign to “keep control of area hospital systems local” has taken on a life of its own.
It coincides with – and for all intents and purposes seeks to influence – Wellmont Health Systems’ “strategic options” process. Wellmont, a not-for-profit system whose flagship hospitals are Kingsport’s Holston Valley and Bristol Regional Medical Center, has whittled a list of prospective “strategic alignment” candidates to three (related story on page 14). Its leadership hopes to make a decision about a merger by the end of 2014. While the unnamed “regional system” left in the hunt is strongly rumored to be Mountain States Health Alliance, the recent effort’s main spokesman, longtime area banker Bill Greene said of Wellmont, “I’m satisfied they’re not going in that direction.”
To that end, Greene and what he calls a “hole-in-the-wall gang” comprised of some regional heavyweights in both the private and public sectors, have mounted their campaign. One of Greene’s primary criticisms involves what he says has been a lack of transparency in Wellmont’s strategic process, which the six-hospital, 6,500-employee not-for-profit system commenced in January. (Mountain States has 8,600 employees and 14 hospitals.)
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