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Battleground Unicoi County: Regional hospital systems again at odds over territory

Brad Hicks and Madison Mathews • Oct 21, 2012 at 8:33 AM

ERWIN — The war of words and advertising dollars between Mountain States Health Alliance over the fate of Unicoi County Memorial Hospital is just the latest skirmish in a long history of wrangling between the region's two health care giants.

Since the two systems were formed from locally owned hospitals in the 1990s, turf battles have played out on numerous occasions, especially as each system has expanded into the other system's perceived territory.

In recent months, Mountain States and Wellmont have set their sights on Unicoi County's hospital, a small publicly-owned facility caught in the monstrous complexities of modern health care finances.

As the UCMH Board of Control entertains acquisition proposals from the two systems, county leaders have opened the matter up for public input by scheduling a forum for Monday night at Unicoi County Intermediate School. The Board of Control, however, has yet to set a date for a decision.

Setting the stage for Monday's public forum, the Johnson City Press has published a breakdown of the two proposals as part of package of articles on the hospital issue appearing in the Sunday edition. Erwin Bureau Chief Brad Hicks points out similarities and differences between what Mountain States and Wellmont have offered. Hicks also spoke with several Unicoi County physicians about their concerns with the hospital acquisition and their experiences with the health systems.

The package of articles also includes a detailed examination from Press Staff Writer Madison Mathews of the history between Mountain States and Wellmont leading up to the acquisition tug of war.

You'll find it all starting on the front page of the Sunday, Oct. 21, edition of Johnson City Press and continuing on pages 5A and 6A.

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