No timetable for UCMH sale after Attorney General ruling - WRBL

No timetable for UCMH sale after Attorney General ruling

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News Channel 11 heard back Wednesday night from Unicoi County Memorial Hospital Board Chairman Roland Bailey.

He told News Channel 11 that the UCMH board attorney is still in the review and evaluation process regarding the AG's opinion, and there's no timetable as far as what and when something is going to happen with the hospital sale.

Bailey said the topic is not scheduled to come up at Thursday's Board of Control meeting,  but it could.

Supporters of the Mountain States Health Alliance acquisition of Unicoi County Memorial Hospital say the Tennessee Attorney General's decision is a real setback for the hospital.

Tuesday's decision stopped the sale of the Unicoi County Memorial Hospital in its tracks. The Attorney General's Office questioned the hospital's board of control for among other things, violating the state's open meetings act and failing to ask the city and county to approve the hospital sale.

The board has since said it is in the process of trying to comply with the state's recommendations so it can move forward with the sale of the hospital.

Although Mountain States does not own the hospital yet, it is managing the day-to-day operations and the employees are considered Mountain States team members. In addition, the hospital is in deep financial trouble. The $2 million Mountain States loaned to the hospital to keep it in business is almost gone.

"The Board will begin working with the AG's office immediately to comply with any AG recommendations," the Board said in a press release Tuesday. "We have made it known to the state officials that the hospital's line of credit with MSHA is nearly exhausted, and the hospital is in dire financial straits. We hope that the AG will allow us to move quickly to rectify any remaining concerns from the AG in order to keep our community hospital from closing."

Mountain States has said it remains committed to the hospital and the community in Unicoi County.

"There is still a limited amount of funding left in the $2 million line of credit," MSHA President and CEO Dennis Vonderfecht said Wednesday. "We will be meeting with the UCMH Board of Control soon regarding how we will continue operations once that line of credit runs out."

Still, the question now remains when, if at all, will the hospital sale move forward.

"This opens up a lot questions about what will happen," Unicoi County Mayor Greg Lynch said. "I don't know what happens if the city approves it and the county doesn't. I don't know where it goes from there."

Mayor Greg Lynch, a Wellmont Health System supporter, says both the county and town will now get to be part of the process. He says the original process just wasn't transparent enough. In fact, he brought those concerns directly to the Attorney General's Office.

"We just felt like that it wasn't as open to the public as it should be," Mayor Lynch said. "The meetings seemed to be a lot of backroom things going on and I'll just be honest with you, I think this process has been going on for the last eight or nine years."

Considering the recent AG decision, Mayor Lynch there is a chance Wellmont might find its way back into the discussion.

"It's still possible Wellmont could come here," Mayor Lynch said. "I'd say it would probably be a long shot, but I still feel like the majority of citizens of Unicoi County were wanting Wellmont."

The UCMH Board of Control has its next regularly scheduled meeting Thursday night.

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