Ballad says it informed Virginia health officials before stopping surgeries at Norton hospital

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Ballad Health says it did provide proper notice about its decision to stop performing elective surgeries at a Norton hospital.

The health system confirmed Wednesday it has stopped elective surgeries at Mountain View Hospital. Now, those surgeries are being performed two miles away at Norton Community Hospital, and at Lonesome Pine Hospital, 12 miles away. 

“Due to significantly lower volumes, a phenomenon experienced in rural hospitals all over the nation, the doctors in Wise County last fall believed the lower volumes caused by spreading the surgeries among 3 hospitals suppressed the volumes at Mountain View to a level that could cause patient safety concerns,” Ballad said in a statement. “They made the decision it was safer to do elective surgeries at the hospitals which had higher volumes.”

In an article published Tuesday, the Roanoke Times reported that Ballad stopped performing surgeries at Mountain View back in October and questioned whether the health system notified patients or state regulators.

Ballad says reports that it didn’t provide proper notice are untrue.

“Once the doctors made that decision, Ballad Health supported their decision and immediately notified the Department of Health,” the health system said in its statement. “We discussed our plans for Mountain View with Virginia state health officials, our local physicians and EMS, more than nine months ago. Our physicians communicated these changes to their patients as appropriate.”​​​​​​​

Ballad is required to give Virginia health officials nine months notice when contemplating changes to services in Wise County. 

SEE ALSO: Ballad plans to reopen Lee County hospital in fall 2020

Speaking before the Southwest Virginia Hospital Authority on Wednesday, Ballad senior vice president of market operations Eric Deaton said the changes at Mountain View Hospital were not part of a consolidation plan. 

“It’s putting a lot of pressure for our physicians to cover both places full-time and provide the care that they feel is appropriate,” Deaton said. “Our patients’ safety and well-being is really the highest priority for us.”

Members of the hospital authority expressed disappointment with communication between Ballad and the authority. Deaton agreed and said it will work on improving communications. 

“Communication is key in making this merger successful,” said Todd Pillion, Member of the Virginia House of Delegates. “So far they are failing at communicating successfully.”

But, despite questions about communication, a hospital authority staff member praised Ballad’s interactions so far.

“One of the things that impressed me is that we have had additional meetings and additional contacts is the depth of the quality of the management,” said Dennis Barry, a hospital authority staff member.

News Channel 11 has reached out to the Virginia Department of Health after the meeting. The Virginia Department of Health says their communication with Ballad has improved.

Here is the full statement from Ballad Health:

Our first priority is to collaborate with doctors to provide the highest quality of care. Due to significantly lower volumes, a phenomenon experienced in rural hospitals all over the nation, the doctors in Wise County last fall believed the lower volumes caused by spreading the surgeries among 3 hospitals suppressed the volumes at Mountain View to a level that could cause patient safety concerns. They made the decision it was safer to do elective surgeries at the hospitals which had higher volumes. Once the doctors made that decision, Ballad Health supported their decision and immediately notified the Department of Health.

Importantly, these elective surgery cases have continued to be performed locally at Lonesome Pine Hospital (12 miles from Mountain View) and Norton Community Hospital (2 miles from Mountain View), both of which are also located in Wise County.

It was reported that Ballad Health had not provided proper notice to these changes, and that is incorrect. We discussed our plans for Mountain View with Virginia state health officials, our local physicians and EMS, more than nine months ago. Our physicians communicated these changes to their patients as appropriate.

We are committed to addressing a number of local healthcare challenges in Wise County, including:

  *   Reduced use of inpatient facilities,
  *   A declining local population,
  *   Challenges in recruiting needed specialists, making it difficult to add key services, and
  *   Increasing high rates of chronic disease, addiction, drug overdose and more.

Additionally, the Cooperative Agreement requires that we provide the state 9 months notice when contemplating reconfiguring services in Wise County. We are in the midst of a planning process and are coordinating closely with the state to chart a new path to meet these challenges. We will continue to work with our local physician leaders, Board members, and community leaders through the launch of a Visioning Committee this summer that will determine the best way to meet and exceed the changing healthcare needs of Wise County.

-Ballad Health

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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