Below is a news releases sent out by Wellmont Health System and Mountain States Health Alliance outlining their plans to create a new, integrated health system that includes both systems and a major role for East Tennessee State University’s health sciences programs. More information is available at a newly created website, becomingbettertogether.org. A news conference is set for this afternoon.
Wellmont Health System, Mountain States Health Alliance announce plans to pursue an integrated health system
KINGSPORT and JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. – (April 2, 2015) – Wellmont Health System and Mountain States Health Alliance have agreed to exclusively explore the creation of a new, integrated and locally governed health system designed to address the serious health issues affecting the region and to be among the best in the nation in terms of quality, affordability and patient satisfaction.
In a term sheet signed Wednesday, the boards of directors of both organizations agree to explore combining the assets and operations of Wellmont and Mountain States into a new health system. This decision follows more than a year of merger discussions, internal analysis within each system, thoughtful conversations in the community and unanimous votes by both boards to examine this option.
“We are excited about this proposed combination that will bring together the capabilities of both Wellmont and Mountain States, combined with a partnership in academics and with our states, to serve the region and result in unprecedented quality and value,” said Roger Leonard, chair of Wellmont’s board. “We are grateful to the thousands of community and business leaders, physicians, employees and patients who have shared their thoughts throughout this process. It was deliberative and methodical, which led us unanimously to the right conclusion.”
“Our board is enthusiastic about this potential partnership,” said Barbara Allen, chair of the board for Mountain States. “We and the leadership of Wellmont all care deeply about the region we serve. We share a passion for improving our region’s health and our region’s economy. We look forward to working closely with the state of Tennessee and the Commonwealth of Virginia, as well as with our payors, to focus on the real drivers of cost reduction and quality-enhancement.”
A new board will be created, which will have equal representation from Wellmont and Mountain States, as well as two new independent, jointly appointed members. The board will also include a lead independent director who will be a Wellmont board appointee who will work with the board in coordination with the executive chairman. This is a best practice model frequently used by companies who have an executive chairman.
The president of East Tennessee State University will serve as an ex-officio nonvoting member of the board. The involvement of ETSU will focus on expanding opportunities to compete for research investment in our region, as well as enhancing physician and allied health training for the future.
This new board would direct the proposed health system, which would also have a new name. One leadership team, composed of current executives from both organizations, would lead the combined system. The CEOs of both organizations would share leadership responsibilities.
“Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia disproportionately suffer from serious health issues – cardiovascular disease, diabetes, addiction and access to mental health services, to name a few – and they must be addressed,” said Alan Levine, president and CEO of Mountain States, who would become executive chairman and president of the combined system. “The cost of this poor health is not sustainable. By integrating, we can refocus our efforts from being measured based on how many patients we can admit to the hospital and how many ways we can duplicate these efforts, to how we measurably improve the health of our region while eliminating unnecessary costs and making health care more affordable. The people of this region deserve nothing less. We intend to demonstrate the merger’s substantial specific potential in these areas.”
An integration council with executive and physician leaders from both systems will be formed to further develop plans for a combined system during the next several months. Those plans will be in the best interest of clinical quality and the patients served, will demonstrate shared values and will honor commitments to employees and physicians.
“Together, we’ll work alongside our employed and independent physicians to shape the future of health care by modeling effective clinical collaboration, building new community health solutions and becoming a national model for rural health care delivery,” said Bart Hove, president and CEO of Wellmont, who would be CEO of the new system. “As one system, our physicians would share best practices, collaborate to benchmark our outcomes against the nation’s best and develop new high-level services closer to home.”
The systems now enter a due diligence period and will work toward developing a definitive agreement. The definitive agreement will be followed by a process to obtain, among other regulatory requirements, Tennessee and Virginia approvals of the merger, which will likely take through the end of 2015.
In Tennessee, the organizations will pursue approval under the state’s COPA (Certificate of Public Advantage) statute. A COPA authorizes the parties to merge and directs the state to actively supervise the new health system to ensure that it continues to benefit the community by providing health care that is affordable, accessible, cost-efficient and high in quality. In Virginia, the health systems will pursue a process similar to a COPA that is defined by a proposed statute that has been passed by the legislature and awaits the governor’s signature.
During the next phases of due diligence, integration analysis, planning for potential integration and government approval, both Mountain States and Wellmont will continue “business as usual” as two separate and independent organizations.
For more information, please visit www.becomingbettertogether.org
About Wellmont Health System
Wellmont Health System is a leading provider of health care services for Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia, delivering top-quality, comprehensive health care, wellness, and long-term care services across the region. Wellmont facilities include Holston Valley Medical Center in Kingsport, Tenn.; Bristol Regional Medical Center in Bristol, Tenn.; Mountain View Regional Medical Center in Norton, Va.; Lonesome Pine Hospital in Big Stone Gap, Va.; Hawkins County Memorial Hospital in Rogersville, Tenn.; and Hancock County Hospital in Sneedville, Tenn. For more information about Wellmont, please visit www.wellmont.org.
About Mountain States Health Alliance
Since 1998, Mountain States Health Alliance has been bringing the nation’s best health care close to home to serve the residents of Northeast Tennessee, Southwest Virginia, Southeastern Kentucky and Western North Carolina. This not-for-profit health care organization based in Johnson City, Tenn., operates family of 13 hospitals serving a 29-county region. Mountain States offers a large tertiary hospital with level 1 trauma center, a dedicated children’s hospital, several community hospitals, two critical access hospitals, a behavioral health hospital, two long-term care facilities, home care and hospice services, retail pharmacies, a comprehensive medical management corporation, and the region’s only provider-owned health insurance company. The team members, physicians and volunteers who make up Mountain States Health Alliance are committed to caring for you and earning your trust. For more information, visit www.mountainstateshealth.com.