Carter County Commission to draft resolution addressing concerns over Ballad Health’s Sycamore Shoals Hospital

Published 9:08 am Monday, September 25, 2023

BY ROBERT SORRELL
STAR CORRESPONDENT
Carter County Attorney Josh Hardin is drafting a resolution on behalf of the county commission regarding ongoing concerns about Ballad Health’s operations at Sycamore Shoals Hospital in Elizabethton.
The Carter County Commission gathered on Sept. 18 for a marathon four-hour meeting. Several citizens voiced their concerns during the public comment period about Ballad Health, including Danielle Goodrich with Tennessee Stands, as well as former Ballad nurse Ashley Barnes of Jonesborough.
Barnes, who had worked with Mountain States Health Alliance, said she began to have anxieties after Ballad Health took over in 2018. She talked about how Ballad pays more for travel nurses than a “local experienced nurse,” and how hospitals are understaffed, which has increased wait times for patients.
Barnes worked at Franklin Woods Hospital in Johnson City until 2021.
“It was always about the numbers looking good to them, even though they were not,” Barnes said.
She said she would travel 2-3 hours for health care rather than go to a Ballad facility.
Another speaker said she had moved to Carter County due to the hospital’s presence, but is now concerned about the changes.
Commissioners Angie Odom and Nancy Brown made a motion to have the county attorney draft a resolution to send to Nashville regarding Ballad Health issues. The two commissioners have spoken out about Ballad Health’s operations at Sycamore Shoals.
“I know we can’t change what a company is doing, but we can tell them, this is Carter County,” Odom said. “We are representing the citizens of this county. We need access to health care and our citizens have told us they are not getting the access.”
Brown said, “We need to do something here tonight to show that we are behind our hospital. We ain’t going to back down. We hope that our legislation will help us.”
The commission unanimously approved the motion.
Hardin said he took notes during the meeting and will compile those comments in writing a resolution on behalf of the commission.
Health and Welfare Committee Chairman Nick Holder said his committee will review the resolution at its October meeting. It will then be sent back to the full commission before final approval.
Odom said that the commission’s liaison with the Carter County Health Department will take the resolution directly to Nashville.
Commissioners have been discussing issues involving Ballad Health and its operation of Sycamore Shoals Hospital in Elizabethton for months, especially after the health system closed the facility’s intensive care unit in May.
Ballad Health has defended its decisions, noting that it has been able to keep rural hospitals open as others around the country close. It notes that the emergency department remains open at Sycamore Shoals.
Ballad has said it is not closing Sycamore Shoals Hospital.

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