Report: Ballad Health should learn how to communicate effectively

Hank Hayes • Apr 24, 2019 at 7:00 PM

JOHNSON CITY — Ballad Health should determine how to communicate effectively with its community, according to a report filed with the Tennessee Department of Health.

The report, compiled by Certificate of Public Advantage Compliance Monitor Larry Fitzgerald, said that in spite of its efforts, Ballad Health’s communication has been “ineffective.”

In response, Ballad Health issued this statement: “Ballad Health agrees with the COPA monitor’s conclusion that, ‘Ballad Health has begun this journey successfully.’ Our priority is to deliver excellent healthcare to our communities, and that is what our team members remain focused on. We are committed to working with both states to make Ballad Health and the care we provide better for the region.”

Many of the citizen concerns expressed at a recent COPA Local Advisory Council public meeting would have been averted had communications been effective, the report said.

“I request that consideration be given to either utilizing external resources (or ensuring that they’re fully part of the process if already engaged) for communication activities, specifically any communication that is printed or written in a public media,” Fitzgerald wrote in the report. “All communication vehicles should be used.”

The complaints coming to the COPA monitor are related to hospital charges, termination of employees, consolidation of services and the reduction in the level of care at the neonatal intensive care unit at Kingsport’s Holston Valley Medical Center and at the trauma centers at Holston Valley and Bristol Regional Medical Center, the report noted.

“The complaints received by the COPA monitor were each reviewed and resolved without any changes to Ballad Health’s operations being recommended,” the report said.

The report said Ballad Health had committed $8 million for this year in the areas of Access to Healthcare Services, Health Research, Graduate Medical Education, Population Health Improvement and a Health Information Exchange. The COPA’s Terms of Certification requires the health system to invest $308 million over 10 years.

“Primarily, as a result of the startup of this merged organization, it is likely that a part of the year one financial commitment will be delayed but be caught up within the first three years. If Ballad’s annual spending in any of the commitment areas is short by over 15 percent of what was agreed to, it constitutes non-compliance with the TOC and may result in TDH leveling a fine on Ballad Health that can be up to $1 million,” the report said. “However, the COPA Monitor may recommend that due to extenuating circumstances, i.e. the appropriate and necessary focus on infrastructure merging, no fine should be assessed against Ballad Health.”

The COPA oversees the merger of Wellmont Health System and Mountain States Health Alliance into Ballad Health.

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