Ballad Health, a merger of the Tri-Cities’ hospital systems, publicly launches

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Ballad Health is publicly launched on Friday. The new company is formed by the merger of Mountain States Health Alliance and Wellmont Health.  

“A lot of people worked really hard over the last four years to get us to this day,” CEO Alan Levine said on Friday’s news conference.

He unveiled a new company, with a new look.

“Ballad Health: It’s your story. We’re listening,” is the new tagline.

With management of 21 hospitals, comes compliance with a new set of rules from both Tennessee and Virginia.

“The document is both a regulatory instrument but it’s also the development of a partnership,” Levine said.

We also got our first glimpse of new healthcare opportunities on the horizon for our region.

“The planning has now commenced to bring a new pediatric trauma center to our region, the only region in Tennessee that does not have one,” Levine said.

A residential addiction treatment campus and a pediatric emergency department in Kingsport and in Bristol are also in the works.

“We will be establishing a $10 million innovation fund,” Levine said.

Levine said in the news conference that the new fund is to invest in emerging technology and health innovation by partnering with universities and health systems.

He also thanked Tennessee’s Commissioner of Health, Dr. John Dreyzehner. Dreyzehner was the final stamp of approval for the merger.

“State partners are excited to continue to assure that the people of the region have a system that is accountable, transparent and working towards their health,” Dr. Dreyzehner told us.

Levine hopes that by adhering to their new tagline, our community will benefit.

“We think we can make our region and community better by if we would just simply listen,” Levine said.

This merger is also expected to cause around 250 job cuts of mostly administrative positions.

“We have a turn over rate of somewhere in the range of 10-15% so over time, turnover will help with some of that and where we have duplication, we’re going to do the right thing to those individuals that are affected,” Levine said.

He’s told us in the past that more jobs would have been lost if it wasn’t for the merger.

On Thursday, crews removed the logos from the Mountain States Administrative office in Johnson City. 

“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.”

Hospital officials say the merger was made possible through the passage of legislation in Tennessee and Virginia. The legislation authorized the certificate of public advantage (COPA) in Tennessee and a cooperative agreement in Virginia.

This is the first transaction of its kind to involve approval and supervision from two states — making it the largest COPA-governed merger in the country.

Other than the logo, very few changes will be visible to patients — as patient care, according to hospital officials, will proceed as normal, but signage and printed materials in the next several months will take on the new look.

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