Lee officials represent the county at SWVA Health Authority meeting

Officials from Lee County joined the SWVA Health Authority meeting yesterday to stress the much-needed hospital reopening as part of the proposed merger between Wellmont Health System and Mountain States Health Alliance.

A delegation from Lee County addressed the Southwest Virginia Health Authority board who is currently reviewing the merger application filed by the region's health systems.

Wellmont closed the Lee County Hospital in 2013, citing lack of usage, high reimbursement costs under the Affordable Care Act and a lack of physician coverage at the rural facility.

Sheriff Gary Parsons told the authority board that people are dying because the county has no hospital.

The group also cited stresses on the volunteer emergency medical providers, time to reach and transport emergency medical cases to hospitals in Kingsport or Big Stone Gap and  the economic challenges for the region.

Chairman Terry Kilgore said the committee dealing with access to care would review the Lee issue, as part of its work. The authority continues working to determine if the application is complete and can be sent on to the state.

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