Ballad Health reveals plans to reopen Lee County, VA hospital

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Ballad Health’s President and CEO Alan Levine revealed new information Wednesday about its plan to reopen Lee County’s hospital.

The Lee County Hospital Authority commissioners decided to move forward with Ballad Health at Tuesday’s meeting. 

It comes at a time when rural hospitals across the country are closing due to financial issues.

Levine said it’s possible because of the merger between Mountain States Health Alliance and Wellmont Health System to become Ballad Health.

“This is what Ballad Health was created to do and this is the benefit of the merger,” Levine said. “This is why, if you got back to our applications to the states, we said ‘without this merger rural hospitals will close, with this merger, rural hospitals will not close.”

For the past five years, people in Lee County have pleaded for emergency medical care.

For many people, the closest hospital is at least 35 minutes away.

In 2017, the hospital authority partnered with Americore to reopen its hospital.

However, after several financial and construction issues, the board announced they plan to end that deal, which leaves Ballad Health with a legal obligation.

But Levine said it’s an obligation Ballad Health is proud to fulfill.

“I anticipate the capital investment in that hospital could be as much as $15 million over the next one or two years,” Levine said.

He said the hospital will be similar to the Unicoi County Hospital, which opened in October of 2018.

The hospital likely won’t turn a profit, but Levine said Ballad health is willing to provide the funds to keep it open.

“They will be part of a large regional system that is locally governed, that is reactive to needs of each community,” Levine said. “Doubtful that you would do surgeries there but we do anticipate there will be inpatient services provided there. 

Commissioners also moved forward to ending its relationship with Americore Tuesday night.

The commissioners approved several documents at Tuesday’s meeting.

The agreement is set to end by February 1.

Lee County Hospital Authority is still negotiating a final agreement with Ballad Health.

Once the agreement is complete, both of the board will have to approve.

The authority’s next meeting is set for February 7 at the Pennington Gap Community Center.

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