MSHA and Wellmont working on proposed merger crucial to Lee hospital

Mountain States Health Alliance and Wellmont Health System continue working with officials in Tennessee and Virginia promoting a proposed merger they hope will be approved later this year.

Officials said last week that they expect to fulfill a Tennessee Department of Health request for additional information regarding their proposed merger through that state’s Certificate of Public Advantage process. They are also working on a matching application filed with the Southwest Virginia Health Authority.

“The Southwest Virginia Health Authority is meeting on a regular basis, both as a full group and some subcommittees,”  said Anthony Keck, Mountain States’ senior vice president and chief development officer. “The process in Virginia is two-phase where the local Southwest Health Authority is reviewing our application. They will then make a recommendation to the commissioner of health in Virginia, who will do their own analysis."

Access to care is a significant concern for mostly rural Southwest Virginia, especially in light of the previous closing of Lee County Hospital in Pennington Gap, Delegate Terry Kilgore said.

The authority board’s next scheduled meeting is May 25, but it likely won’t act on the application.

Under the Virginia law, the authority will consider public comments after it completes its initial review.

“The two organizations, outside of the application, are doing a lot of internal planning to get ready for a merger this fall,” Keck said. “We have about 17 different functional teams that are organized according to clinical services, human resources, IT and so on, that have all started meeting. They’re made up of executives, clinicians in the organizations and trying to do as much planning as we’re allowed to do before the merger so we can plan what our new IT systems will look like, what our new HR systems will look like, how we’ll combine our financial system. It’s important to do as much pre-work as possible and everyone is encouraged about how that work is progressing right now.”

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