JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) — Ballad Health teamed with the Wellspring Foundation and Smyth County Community Foundation to dedicate more than $310 million for health care access improvements.
This followed after the health system announced its newly acquired ownership of both Johnston Memorial Hospital in Abingdon and Smyth County Community Hospital in Marion. Ballad had previously owned 50.1% and 80% of those hospitals, respectively.
A release from Ballad on Thursday said the investment aims to improve the quality of life in the localities by easing access to health care in rural areas.
“The partnerships between Ballad Health and these two community foundations have been some of the most productive and successful I’ve ever seen,” said Ballad Health Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Alan Levine. “Both the Wellspring Foundation and the Smyth County Community Foundation have been steadfast supporters of Ballad Health’s mission, and similarly, we strongly support their goals and visions for the future. This announcement is historic in terms of the resources it will unlock.”
Ballad said its acquisition of both facilities paved the way for $310 million to be used among community foundations in collaboration with charitable organizations, health initiatives, workforce development and more in Washington, Russell, Smyth, Wythe and Grayson counties.
“This new partnership brings the best of all options to Southwest Virginia,” Levine said. “The hospitals will continue to be operated by people the communities have become familiar with, while at the same time, unleashing historic investment into the communities served by these critically important assets we have also invested so much in. The relationship we have with the people of Southwest Virginia could not be more important now that we are moving forward together with these exciting initiatives.”
Chairman of the Wellspring Foundation Bill Hayter said that community health leaders look forward to what the investment will bring to the area.
“Together, through this incredible partnership, we have built a successful hospital which has saved lives, served the community, and been a source of pride for the region,” Hayter said. “We are proud of the relationship we have with Ballad Health, and we are grateful to them for their expertise, focus and commitment to high-quality care for our families and neighbors. By every measure, this has been a hugely successful partnership, and now, we are ready for the next step in that relationship.
“Along with responsible stewardship of the hospital, which has led to high quality, we have been good financial stewards. Our fiscal management of this hospital has led to the investment – and powerful community impact – we are now proudly able to make.”
The release notes that leadership and patient services at Johnston Memorial will remain unchanged following the acquisition. Johnston Memorial CEO John Jeter said the alliance will strengthen health care availability in the region.
“The Wellspring Foundation has done incredible work in the community for more than a century, and now they’re on board to bring health improvement beyond hospital walls and into the broader community,” said Jeter. “This will allow us to take a 21st-century approach to health care, and it’s going to make a real generational impact.
“We’re ready for the next stage of health care in our region, and we’re so honored to be working with the Wellspring Foundation to advance healthcare in our communities. We are here to drive health care in Southwest Virginia, and we think the best way to do that now is to support partnerships like these.”
Earlier in 2021, the Smyth County Community Hospital received a Five Star Overall Rating and Patient Experience Rating from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services — marking the only hospital in Virginia to earn the patient experience rating, according to the release.
Following Ballad’s complete ownership of the Smyth County Community Hospital, the Smyth County Community Foundation pledged $3 million to combat substance abuse in the area via a grant program that will benefit Appalachian Center of Hope.
The foundation will continue to team with Ballad in an effort to address further public health needs.
The trio — Ballad Health, the Wellspring Foundation and the Smyth County Community Foundation — will begin working to identify the next steps to enhance behavioral health services within the area as well, the release states.
A community board for both hospitals will also be established, and the acquisitions do not affect services provided by either hospital.