Ballad Health to reopen Lee Co. hospital

Published 10:55 am Monday, February 4, 2019

Lee County will have a second chance to reopen a hospital that has been shut down for several years. According to WJHL, the Lee County Hospital Authority commissioners decided to move forward with Ballad Health during a meeting on Jan. 29.

On Wednesday, Ballad Health’s President and CEO Alan Levine revealed new information about its plan to reopen Lee County’s hospital.

The reopening will come following a merger between Mountain States Health Alliance and Wellmont Health System, which combined to form Ballad Health.

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“This is what Ballad Health was created to do and this is the benefit of the merger,” said Levine in a report from WJHL. “This is why, if you got back to our applications to the states, we said ‘without this merger rural hospitals will close, with this merger, rural hospitals will not close.”

The news comes with much relief from the Lee County community. For nearly two years, the Lee County Hospital Authority has been in back-and-forth communications with Americore. The Authority sold the facility to Americore in 2017, but the hospital was never opened.

The hospital authority cut ties with Americore after the organization missed several deadlines to reopen the hospital — the latest coming at the end of December.

“We deserve a hospital. We shouldn’t have people dying to drive 30 minutes one way just to get medical care,” said Lee County resident Bill Wireman in a previous WHJL report. “So I support our hospital authority. I know they are doing everything in their power to get us a hospital, not just an urgent care or an emergency room. They are doing everything in their power to get us a hospital.”

Plans are to have the Lee County hospital be very similar to the hospital in Unicoi County.

The authority’s next meeting is set for Thursday.