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Kingsport BMA wants more information on Ballad plan

Matthew Lane • Dec 4, 2018 at 8:10 AM

KINGSPORT — Before taking an official stand on the decision to change the trauma center at Holston Valley Medical Center, Kingsport leaders are asking Ballad Health officials to attend a community meeting later this week to provide information behind the decision to downgrade.

At this time, the meeting is scheduled to take place this Thursday at 7 p.m. at the Kingsport Center for Higher Education.

Last month, Ballad announced changes to its trauma and neonatal intensive care services. The trauma center at HVMC would move from Level 1 to Level 3, while NICU services would be consolidated in Johnson City.

In response, the governments of Sullivan County and Scott County passed resolutions opposing the downgrade. Hawkins County plans to hold a public hearing on the matter later this month.

Two weeks ago, a few residents came before the Kingsport Board of Mayor and Aldermen to voice their opposition to the change. During a work session on Monday, BMA members weighed in on the issue.

“We held off two weeks for this type of discussion so we could listen to the citizens and hear their views about the recent Ballad announcement,” Mayor John Clark explained. “Since then, we've received a lot of input from citizens, editorials, letters, and we've had a chance to see information from Ballad.”

Clark summarized the main comments he had heard from citizens these past two weeks as follows:

- It's not a merger, but a takeover.

- Kingsport is losing more services to Johnson City than it is gaining.

- There are more reductions down the road.

- What are the benefits to Kingsport from this merger?

- How can Holston Valley be downgraded when we live next to three manufacturing plants?

- I don't believe the data being provided.

“I think it's important for me that we're able to address these concerns,” Clark said. “Based on these, I feel more information is needed from Ballad for me to make an informed decision.”

A prior BMA publicly supported the merger, and in the lead-up to the merger, it has been known that our region would only have one Level 1 trauma center, either in Kingsport or in Johnson City.

Vice Mayor Mike McIntire agreed with the mayor's need for a public forum to explain the basis for the decision.

“I want Ballad to understand the impact (this decision) will have on Kingsport and I want to make sure we're getting a fair shake out of this whole thing,” McIntire said.

Alderwoman Colette George, who opposed the merger, said because Kingsport had two hospitals, people knew the city would lose out in the merger. But instead of focusing on things that can’t be changed, George said the BMA should focus on things that can.

“I’d love to have Ballad come and present their data to us as to why these moves need to be made,” George said. “I want to see how it will best service the citizens, to get them to a place they need to be to get care they need and what (Ballad) will keep in Kingsport long-term.”

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