KINGSPORT — Based on concerns raised by the Tennessee attorney general’s office, Wellmont Health System officials believe the process used by the Unicoi County Memorial Hospital Board of Control to select a proposal for the sale of its hospital did not meet legal requirements.
As a result of an internal legal analysis, Wellmont officials consider both its proposal and the proposal of Mountain States Health Alliance to be null and void. Given that stance, Wellmont will not participate in the open meeting to be held Thursday, July 18.
“According to our legal advice, the proper remedy for these violations is for the board to issue another request for proposals and follow a legal, broad and transparent process from this point forward,” said Denny DeNarvaez, Wellmont’s president and CEO. “Merely re-evaluating the two proposals in an open meeting such as the one scheduled later this week is not sufficient.”
In a letter dated June 25, the attorney general’s office detailed several concerns it had with the process the board used to ultimately select a proposal, including potential violations of the state’s Open Meetings Act.
Officials with Mountain States disagreed with the assessment made by Wellmont.
"Based on the feedback received from the Tennessee Attorney General and our own attorneys' legal analysis, we believe the UMCH Board of Control is following the appropriate legal procedures to assess the acquisition proposals in an open, public manner," MSHA president and CEO, Dennis Vonderfecht said. "Nothing in the letter from the Attorney General suggests that the process followed by the UMCH Board of Control in soliciting proposals was flawed. The recent announcement by Wellmont is simply a ploy to disrupt a process in which it had the same opportunity to participate as MSHA. In light of the dire financial situation at UCMH, the attempts by Wellmont to delay the process reveal its disregard for the fate of UCMH."
Both healthcare systems believe they are representing the best interests of the people of Unicoi County.
“We simply want what’s in the best interests of the people of Unicoi County,” DeNarvaez said. “And an open, honest process is clearly in their best interests.We continue to be humbled and appreciative of the tremendous support we’ve received from the residents of that community, and we will continue to work to ensure the process used to determine the sale of their hospital is transparent and fair.”
"As we have been for many years, MSHA remains committed to serving the people of Unicoi County and to supporting the county's hometown hospital," Vonderfecht said. "Our offer to the people of Unicoi County still stands."