(Lee Talbert/Johnson City Press)
ERWIN — Unicoi County Memorial Hospital Administrator Tracy Byers said those involved are anxiously awaiting the finalization of UCMH’s sale to Mountain States Health Alliance.
“Everybody is ready,” he said. “Everybody is ready to just get beyond it. It’s been a long battle, if you will, and I think everyone is looking forward to just moving past it and moving on to the next step, which is becoming fully integrating as part of Mountain States and looking forward to the future we have together.”
And word from Nashville regarding the pending acquisition could come soon.
Byers said Tuesday that MSHA officials are anticipating that those involved in the transaction will receive a letter of “no action” from the state attorney general’s office either today or Thursday. Byers also said officials are moving forward with Friday being the anticipated closing date.
Last November, the Unicoi County Memorial Hospital Board of Control voted to accept a revised proposal from MSHA to acquire UCMH over a proposal submitted by Wellmont Health System. In March, the board voted to accept MSHA’s asset purchase agreement and, in May, the sale application was submitted to the attorney general’s office for its review.
In late June, the UMCH board announced that the pending sale had been delayed due to three concerns the attorney general’s office had regarding the sale process. According to a letter from the attorney general’s office sent to UCMH Board of Control attorneys, these concerns were the UCMH board’s failure to comply with the state’s Open Meetings Act during the process, the board’s failure to obtain sale approval from the town of Erwin and Unicoi County per the UCMH charter, and concerns over how monetary contributions outlined in the MSHA proposal would be utilized.
To address the Open Meetings Act concern, the board held a public meeting in July where it again voted to accept the MSHA proposal. Later that month, the Erwin Board of Mayor and Aldermen approved a resolution to approve the sale per the UCMH Board of Control’s vote. In August, the Unicoi County Commission approved a similar resoluion.
Contributions of $750,000 each to be provided to the town of Erwin and Unicoi County after the sale closes are to be used toward public health care needs. A $1 million contribution that MSHA will also provide after closing will be used to establish a new health care service foundation in Unicoi County.
MSHA Vice President of Marketing and Communication Tony Benton previously said documentation to show that these concerns had been addressed was sent to the attorney general’s office, which initiated a 45-day review period. At the end of its review, the attorney general can take no action regarding the sale, deny it or request more information.
“A letter of ‘no action’ is pretty much an endorsement that there has been nothing discovered that would make him have any reason to stop the transaction,” Byers said.
Byers said officials do not expect another delay in the process.
“We addressed the three main items of concern and we have heard nothing to tell us otherwise, that it will be approved with official notice being given probably tomorrow or Thursday,” Byers said. “We are still planning on the close to take place as of Nov. 1, Friday, and haven’t heard anything to the contrary.”
On Wednesday, members of the UCMH Board of Control signed pre-closing documents that they they “wanted to take care of,” as board members and MSHA officials are headed to Nashville for the Tennessee Hospital Association’s annual meeting, Byers said. He said the documents are “nothing official” and were signed without MSHA officials present.
“It was just basically to try to get as many things done while we were all together before the final transaction date,” Byers said.