MSHA, Wellmont authorize final approval of board; Elizabethton native part of Ballad

Published 4:40 pm Thursday, February 1, 2018

TENNESSEE and VIRGINIA – The boards of directors of Mountain States Health Alliance and Wellmont Health System have voted unanimously to approve the final terms that will govern their merger, forming a new health system to serve the 1.2 million residents of Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia. The transaction creating the new organization, named Ballad Health, officially became effective at 12:01 a.m. February 1, 2018.  A formal launch will be held on Friday, February 2.

The final vote marks the end of a nearly four-year merger process that began when Mountain States Health Alliance responded to a request for proposals from Wellmont Health System inviting health systems to outline potential partnerships. The Wellmont board selected the proposal from Mountain States because of its unique vision to create a health improvement organization, limit health care pricing growth, maintain local governance, and invest in the region. Alternatives to the Mountain States proposal would have led to higher pricing, loss of local governance, and nearly 1,000 lost jobs. The proposed merger of Wellmont and Mountain States drew broad support from employers and business leaders, the region’s chambers of commerce, local governments and the legislative delegation.

The merger was made possible through the passage of legislation in Tennessee and Virginia, which was supported by the governors of both states due to the unique nature of the region. The legislation authorized the issuance of a certificate of public advantage (COPA) in Tennessee and a cooperative agreement in Virginia, and represents the first transaction of its kind to involve approval and supervision from two states. It is the largest COPA-governed merger in the country to date.

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“This merger would not have been possible without tremendous support from our local business community, physicians, team members and community leaders who are passionate about preserving local healthcare during a time when community hospitals are being absorbed by large national health systems,” said Alan Levine, executive chairman, president and chief executive officer of Ballad Health. “This merger, which is happening with the support of the leaders of Tennessee and Virginia, represents an acknowledgement that there is a different model that can be better than the creation of a few national health care systems. This is new, and we respect the challenge before us. We are all in this together.”

Ballad Health leaders and team members will mark the system’s official launch on Friday with celebrations for team members at locations throughout the region. Team members will receive new badges bearing the Ballad Health logo on Friday, but few other changes will be visible to patients immediately. Patient care in all sites will proceed as normal. Signage and printed materials will change gradually over the next several months.

The top leadership team for Ballad Health has also been selected, including leaders from both the former Wellmont and Mountain States teams.

“Wellmont and Mountain States had great leaders, and we have spent nearly one year evaluating them to make sure we selected the team that would be the best fit, create the best culture, and be capable of executing on the very significant plans before us,” said Levine. “As we spent the last year evaluating the team, it became clear that we have some of the most talented people you can find in any health system. I believe we have selected the people who can execute on the promise of this merger.”

Serving on the board is one representative from Sycamore Shoals.

Dwayne Taylor will serve as president of Ballad Health’s southeast market, with oversight of Sycamore Shoals Hospital, Johnson County Community Hospital, and Unicoi County Memorial Hospital.

Prior to this role, Taylor served as vice president and chief executive officer for Mountain States Health Alliance’s Southeast Market, comprising Sycamore Shoals, Johnson County and Unicoi County hospitals.

Taylor joined Mountain States in 1990, first serving the system as a staff accountant. He then spent 10 years as the chief financial officer for Sycamore Shoals Hospital before becoming chief executive officer in 2006. During this time, Taylor led several key projects, including the planning and development of a new 35,000-square-foot medical office building, expansion of the emergency department, implementation of MRI services and the addition of geropsych services.

As a lifelong member of the Elizabethton community, Taylor is passionate about the region and about working with other community leaders on ways to grow and improve the community. He has served as a board member for the Hospital Alliance of Tennessee, the Elizabethton and Carter County Chamber of Commerce, is a member of the local Rotary Club and is a strong supporter of the United Way.