Photo by Lee Talbert
Mountain States Health Alliance announced Tuesday that it has left its blood supply collaboration with Wellmont Health System’s Marsh Regional Blood Center and will instead be using a Chattanooga-based supplier.
Effective since Monday, MSHA officials confirmed just before noon Tuesday that Blood Assurance, a nonprofit regional blood center, would be the exclusive supplier for three of the system’s hospitals — Johnson City Medical Center, Johnson County Community Hospital and Franklin Woods Community Hospital.
David Nicely, president and CEO of MSHA’s Washington County facilities, said Tuesday the switch from Marsh to Blood Assurance, which was decided in May, was an economic decision for the health system and said it made sense to work with one vendor when it came to blood supply and blood products, rather than with two different groups.
He said Marsh has had an agreement with Blood Assurance for a while and said they do testing for the center’s blood and blood products. Nicely said Blood Assurance has also supplied Marsh with additional units whenever Marsh has not been able to collect enough for the community’s needs.
“Just a few months back ... our Virginia hospital, our sister hospital, Johnston Memorial Hospital in Abingdon ... decided to discontinue their operations of their blood bank and they asked Blood Assurance in Chattanooga if they wanted to come up and take a look at it and see if they wanted to run that and they did. For several months ... Blood Assurance has been providing blood and blood products to our Virginia hospitals.”
Nicely said upon speaking with its Virginia counterparts, as well as Marsh MSHA learned there were fee discrepancies in what they were being charged with Marsh, versus the system’s Virginia hospitals using Blood Assurance.
“We had a call in December with Marsh and asked them ... if they could have a concession on their pricing, to match those prices with us,” Nicely said. “They were unable to do that.”
Eventually, he said the entire system will be integrated to Blood Assurance, which will include Unicoi County Memorial Hospital, Sycamore Shoals Hospital and Indian Path Hospital.
“Unicoi, Sycamore Shoals and Indian Path will all be added to the agreement once their individual contracts with Marsh does come to an end,” Nicely said.
He said those contracts should end within the next year.
In addition to Johnston, MSHA’s Smyth County Community Hospital in Marion, Va., is being supplied by Blood Assurance. Three other MSHA hospitals in Southwest Virginia –– Dickenson Community Hospital in Clintwood, Norton Community Hospital in Norton and Russell County Medical Center in Lebanon –– are under contract with Marsh.
According to a Blood Assurance release, it will add a Johnson City center that will process and test blood donations to fill orders from the hospitals based on blood type and specific needs.
Marsh issued a statement Tuesday and said it was “proud to serve Johnson City Medical Center, Franklin Woods Community Hospital and Johnson County Community Hospital for several years. We were interested in continuing that relationship, as it proved to be a productive regional partnership that yielded no service complaints, but Mountain States Health Alliance decided to switch providers.”
Wellmont Media Relations Coordinator Jim Wozniak confirmed in the past that Marsh, which supplies directly to Wellmont hospitals, has sought outside help for blood supplies in emergency situations.
“Periodically, you run short on your supply. It happens to everyone, every blood supplier,” Wozniak said. “In an emergency situation we would reach out to ... many outlets and, yes, in the past we have ... obtained blood from Blood Assurance, but it’s been at least a year since that happened. It’s not like we have a contract ... to buy from there. There’s others that we have used in the past, too.”
In the statement, Marsh said it will continue to supply blood to Mountain States facilities currently under contract, as well as other hospitals in Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia.
Marsh also recently partnered with East Tennessee State University athletics, where the sports program will donate 1,000 units during the next year.
Wozniak said that while Marsh does not currently have a donor center in Washington County, it will still operate its mobile units in the county for blood drives.
“We have done (drives at) many high schools ... in the area and we’ve done drives at ETSU,” Wozniak said. “In fact, if you look at our blood drive list that we just put out for next week, it has a bunch of drives in Washington County.
According to a Wellmont/Marsh news release, Marsh has scheduled public blood drives at University Edge Apartments on Tuesday from 11 a.m. - 4 p.m., ETSU’s Culp University Center on Sept. 12 from 9 a.m.- 3 p.m. and at St. Mary’s Catholic Church on Sept. 15 from 8 a.m.-2 p.m.
Linda Hisey, Blood Assurance’s vice president of marketing and public relations, said Tuesday evening the nonprofit blood supplier was thrilled to be coming to the Johnson City area.
“We’ve visited up there. We love the area,” Hisey said. “It’s just really something we’re looking forward to. It’s a fun place to be and it’s in our natural growth pattern to come up that way.”
While not a regular supplier, Hisey said Blood Assurance has supplied Marsh with blood on a need-based practice for the past 20 years.
“It’s a good practice for us to help out with the blood supply when Marsh could not meet their demands,” she said. “When blood is needed, we’re always going to be somewhere to help. All of us do that in this industry.”