Protesters set Dec. 5 meeting to explore possible hospital authority

Jeff Bobo • Nov 27, 2019 at 11:30 AM

ROGERSVILLE — Hawkins County commissioners received personal invitations during Monday’s meeting to a gathering next week that will explore the possibility of establishing a public hospital authority to oversee health care services in the region served by Ballad Health.

The Dec. 5 gathering in Rogersville is being organized by the Rally in the Valley organization, which has maintained a 24/7 protest against health care changes imposed earlier this year by Ballad.

Rally in the Valley members Gary Frady and Kathy Christian, both of Church Hill, invited commissioners to attend a public meeting that will be held Dec. 5 at 6 p.m. at the Holston Electric Cooperative facility at 1200 W. Main St. in Rogersville.

Frady said his group expects to eventually ask the commission to approve a resolution requesting public hearings on establishing a hospital authority that would oversee and manage how health care is delivered to all citizens in Ballad's service area.

Among the changes being protested by Rally in the Valley are Ballad's decision to downgrade Holston Valley's NICU and Level 1 trauma center, as well as closing the Cancer Infusion Center in Allandale.

“It is abundantly clear to those of us involved in the protest against Ballad Health that this is the last avenue left open to the people if they are to have any redress or legitimate grievances arising out of Ballad Health's exercise of the monopolistic muscle,” Frady told the commission Monday. “I fully understand that before any such resolution can be considered, both the commissioners and the citizens must inform themselves of the requirements necessary for establishment of a hospital authority. In order to expedite the learning curve for both groups, I am announcing this called public meeting for the express purpose of exploring the requirements that must be met in order to establish a hospital authority for our region.”

Frady said invitations to this public meeting will also be extended to the county commissioners, county mayors and county attorneys of Sullivan, Greene, Hamblen and Hancock counties.

“I cannot emphasize enough the importance of your attendance at this meeting,” Frady said. “If the citizens of this region are to have a fair shot at accessing quality health care at affordable rates, the establishment of a hospital authority appears to be the only reasonable way that can happen.”

Kathy Christian told the commission she is one of the protesters who has slept outside of the hospital for 208 days.

“I am absolutely committed to my community, and I'm very proud to say also that a good number of the people who are the core group of Rally in the Valley are from Hawkins County,” Christian said. “I just want to let you know that Hawkins County residents have stepped up to the plate to do what we can do to make sure we have quality health care in a timely fashion.”