KINGSPORT, Tenn. (WJHL) — The months-long protest against Ballad Health outside of Holston Valley Medical Center is coming to an end, according to protest organizer Dani Cook.
“Our choice to pack up camp had nothing to do with the city of Kingsport. It had nothing to do with Ballad Health. It had to do with us taking ownership of our protest and our objective,” said Cook, whose main focus of the protest was Ballad Health’s decision to move trauma services and the NICU from Kingsport to Johnson City Medical Center.
Cook says the Rally for the Valley protest will “focus its efforts in a grassroots movement to establish a Hospital Authority” which will include town halls, community forums, meetings with legislators, and canvassing.
“After the city of Kingsport gave us citations, it became more about the protest than our objective and the objective is saving healthcare for our region,” said Cook.
The announcement comes after the City of Kingsport issued a violation notice to the protesters for violating a recently passed city ordinance that prohibits certain structures on public rights of way.
“Our choice to pack up camp had nothing to do with the city of Kingsport. It had nothing to do with Ballad Health,” said Cook. “It had to do with us taking ownership of our protest and our objective.”
Cook told News Channel 11 that the city of Kingsport reached out to her as the group was packing and cleaning up about the upcoming Feb. 12 court date.
“The city attorney… is asking if we would care to meet either directly or with a mediator to find an amicable solution. I have not determined whether or not I am personally going to do that,” says Cook.
Protesters have been posted outside of Holston Valley for 257 days, according to Cook.
“Our focus is on saving healthcare for the region and we are determined to continue in those efforts,” Cook said in an email on Monday.
Cook said Rally for the Valley will now focus on pushing for a grassroots movement holding town halls, meeting with lawmakers and organizing opposition to the merger.
“Now we’re going to be working toward getting more word out to people in all the different areas,” says protester Elminia Dougherty.
The group now has two primary goals.
“Our big two objectives are to get the Certificate of Need repealed because we need competition in this region and second would be getting a hospital authority established to replace the Ballad Health Board of Directors,” says Cook.
There are questions about whether a hospital authority can be formed to oversee Ballad under the current state statute.
State law was changed to allow for the Ballad merger with state oversight by the Tennessee Department of Health and the State’s Attorney-general.
Ballad Health did not comment on the removal of the protest camp.