Tri-Cities chambers of commerce ask state to speed up approval process of hospital systems merger

TRI-CITIES, TN (WJHL)- Sixteen months after former competitors Mountain States Health Alliance and Wellmont Health Systems announced they planned to merge, the systems aren’t the only ones anxious for the deal to get state approval.

The Kingsport, Bristol, and Johnson City chambers of commerce sent a letter to the state asking the state to approve the merger as quickly as possible.

“We wanted to say to the commissioner that hey we are still supportive of the merger, we encourage the process to be moved along as quickly as possible, as thoroughly as possible, so that we can achieve the merger,” Johnson City Chamber of Commerce President/CEO Gary Mabrey said. “The result of the merger is going to be extremely beneficial to us over time.”

“It’s certainly taken longer than we expected,” Mountain States Senior Vice President Anthony Keck said.

Mountain states CEO Alan Levine has said if the merger doesn’t go through, the two systems won’t be able to continue as they are.

“We think we’re on a good path right now to get the application deemed complete soon in both states and then they’ll have their review period which in Tennessee is 120 days and so we think we’re nearing the end here,” Keck said.

But in a letter back to the chambers of commerce, the Tennessee health commissioner John Dreyzehner said: “At this point the department is still waiting on certain information that Wellmont and Mountain States were told in March that we must receive before we can deem the application complete.” Dreyzehner went on to say, “While they have been responding, it has often been months between our requests for information and their provision of it.”

The state is still waiting on a key component of the application, “the plan of separation,” a plan of action if the merger falls apart.

“It’s difficult for many many reasons for us to look too far forward with that plan of separation and that’s what the conversations have been with the state is how far forward and what level of specificity,”  Keck said.

He said they plan on submitting an official plan of separation to the state in the next few weeks.

The state also added in the letter that this merger is the first of its kind and whatever it decides will set a precedent for the entire state.

Here is the link to the letter from the chambers of commerce:

https://www.tn.gov/assets/entities/health/attachments/7.20.16_Chambers_of_Commerce.pdf

Here is the link to the commissioners letter in response:

https://www.tn.gov/assets/entities/health/attachments/COPA_2016-08-17_152402.pdf

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