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Should UCMH Board sell hospital to Mountain States?

Staff Report • Aug 27, 2013 at 7:10 AM

Directors of the Unicoi County Memorial Hospital Board decided earlier this month to table an offer from Mountain States Health Alliance to purchase the community hospital. Instead, the board voted to meet Thursday to discuss the MSHA deal more.

Directors also agreed to take additional proposals to buy the financially struggling hospital. An earlier deal with MSHA was expected to be approved at the board’s meeting Oct. 4.

That meeting saw other possible suitors of the health care facility in attendance, including Wellmont Health System President/CEO Denny DeNarvaez.

While Mountain States Health Alliance President/CEO Dennis Vonderfecht did not attend, he did send Shane O’Hare, MSHA corporate director of communications and marketing, to the meeting.

As Press Erwin Bureau Chief Brad Hicks reported, the board received a letter of intent from MSHA in early September that would see the regional health care giant assume UCMH’s more than $6 million in financial obligations. The deal also included the construction of a new acute care facility, a voluntary contribution of $1 million to be split between Erwin and Unicoi County and the issuance of a $1.5 million line of credit.

The hospital board’s decision to table action on the deal did not please MSHA officials. Mountain States Health Alliance President/CEO Dennis Vonderfecht was disappointed, but said his organization is still interested in acquiring the Unicoi County hospital.

“What we’re calling for is the board of directors of Unicoi County Memorial Hospital to get back on track with the process that was originally put in place,” Vonderfecht said. “It was a fair process to both parties involved, which was us and Wellmont, as well.”

Vonderfecht said Oct. 5 he feels MSHA is the best partner for the Unicoi County hospital. He said between MSHA facilities and UCMH, the two entities already serve 96 percent of the health care needs of Unicoi County residents.

The hospital board met in a closed session on the eve of the deadline to submit proposals to purchase the Unicoi County hospital. Directors voted at that Oct. 10 meeting to give board Chairman Glenn Tilson authority to hire an attorney to handle the sale of the hospital.

We want to hear from you. Should Unicoi County Memorial Hospital Board sell the health care facility to Mountain States Health Alliance, or should it continue to evaluate other offers?

Send your comments to Mailbag, P.O. Box 1717, Johnson City, TN 37605-1717, or mailbag@johnsoncitypress.com. Please include your name, telephone number and address for verification purposes. We will print your comments on the Editorial and Commentary pages in the coming weeks.

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