Kingsport mayor: Wellmont shakeup “step in the right direction”


Phillips hopes Wellmont board will dialogue with community about hospitals’ future

By Jeff Keeling

At least one local leader who has been calling for more transparency in Wellmont Health System’s search for “an alignment partner” believes Wellmont CEO Denny DeNarvaez’s resignation Wednesday is a good sign.

Kingsport Mayor Dennis Phillips and former BMA member Ken Maness before an Aug. 18 community forum concerning Wellmont.

Kingsport Mayor Dennis Phillips and former BMA member Ken Maness before an Aug. 18 community forum concerning Wellmont.

Kingsport Mayor Dennis Phillips was among a panel of leaders who spoke at an Aug. 18 forum signaling the public kickoff of a “Save Your Hospitals” effort. It came shortly after Wellmont had reduced its number of merger contenders to three, and had two main aims: encouraging greater Wellmont board transparency in its process, and pushing for consideration of a local merger between Wellmont and Mountain States Health Alliance.

Saying he was surprised DeNarvaez had resigned (read a related letter from Wellmont’s board chairman at, Phillips added that he thought the move was “a step in the right direction.” Wellmont announced DeNarvaez’s resignation in a news release just before 5 p.m. Wednesday.

Phillips said he hoped the board could sit down and involve the community more in such an important process.

“As I have said before, I think the CEO was driving the hospital board, and I think that the board is to be commended for stepping up and making some good decisions,” Phillips said. He made reference to a group informally headed by local banker Bill Greene that in mid-July began privately pressing DeNarvaez and the Wellmont board to meet and sincerely consider something other than sale to an outside buyer.

Denny DeNarvaez.

Denny DeNarvaez.

Wellmont and Mountain States both are not-for-profit systems. Wellmont’s flagship hospitals are Holston Valley Medical Center and Bristol Regional Medical Center. Mountain States’ is Johnson City Medical Center.

Greene has since told the News and Neighbor that he and others were convinced the Wellmont board had essentially ruled out seeking a partnership, merger or other arrangement with Mountain States.

“I think we can continue the progress that Bill Greene’s group has made in the last 60 days, and do the right thing for the community and the employees of Wellmont. Those are the two most important things we need to consider.”

DeNarvaez served as Wellmont CEO for four years. Citing a need to position itself for the future uncertainties in health care reform, the Wellmont board announced it would launch the strategic process in January. Kaufman-Hall, a Chicago-area healthcare consultancy, has been helping lead Wellmont’s process.

“There are few things more important to this commuity than what happens to the hospital,” Phillips said. “I think we need to keep that in mind.”

For background stories  on the recent “Save Your Hospitals” effort from News and Neighbor and its sister publication, The Business Journal, and for information about how a local merger might be approved, click the following links:



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