Ballad Health merger receives final approval from the Tennessee Department of Health

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The State of Tennessee has issued a COPA or a Certificate of Public Advantage to Mountain States Health Alliance and Wellmont Health System, formalizing a merger deal first announced in April 2015.

The new company will be called Ballad Health.

News Channel 11 has learned that a public launch is planned for Friday morning at 11 a.m. in Kingsport.

Wednesday afternoon, Tennessee Department of Health Commissioner John Dreyzehner announced the state officially allowed the merger.

“Clearly a great deal of work on the part of all involved has gone into this groundbreaking result. We can be proud of the thoughtful, deliberate, transparent and community-accountable process it has been, one I know we all look forward to continuing,” Dreyzehner said. “Our job as the state was to determine whether a merger of the two systems could create a clear public benefit to the people of this wonderful and vibrant region, a responsibility we took and will continue to take very seriously as we enter this next exciting and important phase.”

Here’s more from the Tennessee Department of Health announcement:

“For the state to consider the merge, Mountain States and Wellmont had to meet statutory clear and convincing standard that a merger would create a public benefit to the residents of Northeast Tennessee that would outweigh any downsides of creating a monopoly of services.
To establish that public benefit, TDH worked with the applicants and the Attorney General’s Office to create an index that outlines benchmarks linked to improving key health outcomes and maintaining access to and quality of healthcare in the region. The index includes recommendations from the COPA Index Advisory Group, which was made up of 16 people from the region and which held five listening sessions and subsequent working meetings in the spring of 2016.
The statute also requires TDH to actively supervise Ballad Health to ensure the continuation of the public benefit.”


Earlier today, Mountain States issued the following release about leadership changes:

Officials from Mountain States Health Alliance announced today leadership changes that will take place in the health system’s Washington County, Tennessee, and Abingdon, Virginia, operations. These changes follow the departure of Melody Trimble, who has served as chief executive officer of the Washington County operations for Mountain States since 2014.
Stan Hickson has been named chief executive officer of Washington County, Tennessee, operations, while John Jeter has been appointed chief executive officer of Johnston Memorial Hospital in Abingdon, Virginia. 
Hickson has served since 2016 as chief executive officer of the Mountain States northeast operating division and as the chief executive officer of Johnston Memorial Hospital in Abingdon, Virginia. The northeast operating division includes all operations in Abingdon, Marion and Lebanon Virginia, including Smyth County Community Hospital and Russell County Medical Center. With nearly twenty years of healthcare experience, Hickson has served in various executive roles, including serving as executive partner for The Advisory Board, a leading national health care operations consulting firm. Hickson also served as executive vice president and chief operating officer for Palmetto Health Richland in Columbia, South Carolina, a 649-bed teaching hospital and trauma center operating under a Certificate of Public Advantage. He also served as chief operating officer of Montgomery Regional Hospital in Blacksburg, Virginia; associate administrator of Trident Medical Center in Charleston, South Carolina; and as a strategic planner for HCA. Hickson began his career as an administrative resident at Novant Health in Charlotte, North Carolina.
During Hickson’s tenure at Johnston Memorial Hospital, the hospital received recognition from independent national organizations, including Healthgrades and Consumer Reports, for patient safety and infection prevention.
Hickson replaces Melody Trimble, who joined Mountain States in 2014 as chief executive officer of Washington County, Tennessee, operations, including Johnson City Medical Center, Franklin Woods Community Hospital, Niswonger Children’s Hospital and Woodridge Hospital. During Trimble’s tenure, Johnson City Medical Center was ranked by CareChex as among the top 10 percent of hospitals in the nation for overall hospital care, overall medical care and overall surgical care. Trimble also led Johnson City Medical Center to establish the region’s first and only comprehensive stroke center, serving as a regional hub for the highest quality stroke treatment available.
Also during Trimble’s tenure, Franklin Woods Community Hospital was named one of the top 100 hospitals in the country by Truven Health Analytics for two years in a row, and was recognized as an outstanding employer of the year in 2017 by the Tennessee Nurses Association. Woodridge Hospital received the Guardian of Excellence award for patient satisfaction from Press Ganey three years in a row.
“Melody is a devoted and passionate leader whose accomplishments during her tenure have been exhaustive,” said Alan Levine, president and chief executive officer of Mountain States. “Under her leadership, our hospitals have achieved outstanding quality results and brought new services to the region that were not previously available. Melody is a friend and someone whose integrity and work ethic is without compromise. She will be missed.”
“I have been honored to work with the leaders and team members at Mountain States, and I’m incredibly proud of all we’ve accomplished in the Washington County market,” said Trimble. “These achievements are the result of a lot of hard work by an outstanding team of caregivers, and I am confident our team will continue to thrive under Stan’s leadership. With all we have accomplished, I feel this is the best time for me to transition the leadership to someone who will lead these hospitals to even greater accomplishments. And I could not be more pleased Stan has agreed to serve.”
After February 1, Trimble will transition Hickson into his new leadership role with her last day planned for February 9, 2018.
Following Hickson’s move to the Washington County market, John Jeter will assume the role of chief executive officer of Johnston Memorial Hospital in Abingdon, Virginia. Jeter brings more than 14 years of healthcare experience to the position and has been part of Mountain States since 2009. Since 2014, he has served as assistant vice president, chief financial officer and assistant administrator for Mountain States’ northeast market. 
“John is an impressive and uniquely talented leader,” Levine said. “He has strong support from the physicians and team members at Johnston Memorial, and has earned the trust of the board of directors of the hospital. He is one of the most energetic and competent people I’ve had the privilege of working with, and I know he will be a huge success.”
Hickson and Jeter will begin their new roles when Mountain States Health Alliance and Wellmont Health System complete their merger to form Ballad Health. Other leadership roles within Ballad Health will be announced following the completion of the merger.
“The accomplishments of all three of these leaders are a testament to their passion, their talent and their integrity,” said Levine. “The work they have done in their respective hospitals has inspired our team members to collaborate in new ways, which has elevated the level of care we are able to provide to the people we serve. I am grateful for the opportunity to work alongside them.”

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