Ballad Health a reality following merger of MSHA, Wellmont

Published 6:18 pm Friday, February 2, 2018

A four-year journey for healthcare in Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia formally reached a conclusion right before the weekend in Kingsport.

Representatives from Mountain States Health Alliance and Wellmont Health System welcomed several employees, leaders from across the region, and others to MeadowView Convention Center Friday morning to formally announce the creation of Ballad Health – ultimately shifting the landscape of health across the region, and across the country.

According to information provided by the system, all board of directors involved voted to finalize the deal once Certificates Of Public Advantage (COPAs) from Tennessee and Virginia were approved. Ballad Health officially became a reality at 12:01 a.m. on Thursday, Feb. 1.

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Moving forward with the merger was a necessary move to keep both health systems functioning to serve the public, according to Ballad CEO Alan Levine.

“Simply put, four years ago our leadership saw what was coming,” Levine said. “They saw rural hospitals closing, they saw an opioid epidemic establishing its roots in the community, we saw the need for services that people wanted and that we wanted to provide but we couldn’t because, culturally, our systems were too busy beating each other over the head to make the proper investments in things that will make our communities more healthier and competitive … a lot of people worked hard over the past four years to make this happen.”

While excitement was in abundance during the meeting, Levine added that the system is preparing for an unpredictable world known as healthcare with headwinds to be expected.

The road hasn’t been simple for the merger. Over the months, both systems worked with Tennessee and Virginia Departments of Health for their COPAs to make sure all parameters were met before moving forward with the deal. A series of public forums were also held prior to the officially announcement with residents being able to voice their opinions.

Ballad Health’s tagline “It’s your story. We’re listening” takes a notion to the forums, according to Levine, adding the merger isn’t about buildings, “but about the people.”

David Lester, Lead Independent Director with Ballad’s board of directors, noted during his time with Wellmont that coming together was the only way to adapt to today’s climate.

“The nature of healthcare today makes consolidation necessary to survive,” said Lester.

Levine also announced Thursday that with the merger, planning will now officially be underway to create a residential treatment campus in the region, along with a pediatric trauma center and a bulked up commitment with local postsecondary schools, including East Tennessee State University.

When asked about employees losing their jobs due to the merger, Levine added they’ve seen a 10 to 15 percent turnover rate for FTEs over the years, which could help with the projected 250 full-time employees that are anticipated to lose jobs. With all jobs combined, Levine estimates the system has between 15,000 to 16,000 employees.

For those that are impacted, Levine added the system will work with them on their transition and speak with the employees privately to assist in anyway possible before announcing publicly.

In regards to the opioid epidemic, Levine commended the effort of Gov. Bill Haslam for his recent announcement to tackle the problem with a $30 million plan.

“I really congratulate the Governor for his investment, time and resources (to address opioid addiction),” said Levine. “We started talking about that four years ago. We saw this coming. We see the manifestation in this in our hospitals before the public sees them. You see neonatal abstinence syndrome, NAS, babies, it is heartbreaking.”

Ballad Health recently launched their new social media accounts and website to the public. To learn more about the system, visit or visit their accounts on Twitter and Facebook.