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Phillips: Local Advisory Council doesn't control Ballad Health

Hank Hayes • Jul 31, 2019 at 7:00 PM

KINGSPORT — Former Kingsport Mayor Dennis Phillips said there’s a misconception that people think the Ballad Health Local Advisory Council (LAC) has more power over the health care provider than actually exists.

Phillips chairs the LAC.

“We feel like people think we have some control over Ballad, and we absolutely do not have any control over Ballad,” Phillips said in a phone interview. “Our purpose is to determine where the money is spent and if Ballad violates the terms of the COPA (Certificate of Public Advantage that sealed the merger of Wellmont Health System and Mountain States Health Alliance).

“The long waits in the emergency room, the shutdown of wings of the hospital, that is something that people expect us to do something about, and we have no authority. That does not mean we are not concerned about that. Everyone on the committee, regardless of where you are from, wants to have a hospital that provides exceptional service, and there seems to be a lot of concern about the service at Holston Valley Hospital.”

The LAC has also determined there needs to be better communication between Ballad Health and the public.

When asked how Ballad Health would respond to the LAC moving forward, Ballad Health issued this statement: “We will continue to work with the LAC and Chairman Phillips as they further refine their purpose and processes. We are proud of the work we have accomplished since the merger to improve patient safety, increase access to addiction treatment, expand rural health research at ETSU (East Tennessee State University), and prevent the loss of rural hospitals that has plagued many other rural communities. We hear loud and clear the desire of the LAC for us to more aggressively communicate this message in the community.”

According to the LAC charter, its No. 1 responsibility is to facilitate input from residents in the COPA service area.

Phillips noted COPA Monitor Larry Fitzgerald has reminded the LAC that the COPA monitor determines if there is a COPA violation.

“The closing of the Level One Trauma (at Holston Valley Medical Center) was approved by the commissioner (of the Tennessee Department of Health),” Phillips said. “We have no authority whatsoever to stop that. It’s part of a contract the state has with Ballad. That doesn’t mean we have to like it, but there’s nothing we can do to stop that. I know people feel like there are things we can do that we just cannot do. ... There have not been any violations of the COPA so far.”

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