An open letter from the Chambers of Commerce


The Chambers of Commerce of Kingsport, Bristol and Johnson City/Jonesborough/Washington County endorse the proposed merger of Wellmont Health System and Mountain States Health Alliance to an integrated single system.  We believe this offers the best opportunity for the betterment of our region’s healthcare.

Each Chamber board met with the individual health systems while Wellmont was pursuing three alternatives.  The business community has been all too aware of the extraordinary challenges facing healthcare from delivery, outcome, and cost.

The business community has scrutinized the proposed merger and believe the merger of two local systems into one will enhance the health of the people who live here and will generate economic growth to the region.  Each of the two systems brings assets and strengths that complement the other.  Those combined and complementary strengths will be a formidable force against their financial headwinds.

All indications are that investments from repurposing, prioritizing, and research will be made to expand and improve services.  Frankly, a significant and comprehensive health care system is an asset to retain and recruit business.

We are aware this is not a “done deal.”  Like any large merger, there are requirements from the government to ensure that the transaction will comply with the laws.  Both health systems will have to remain separate until the state of Tennessee and the Commonwealth of Virginia approve the merger.

In the meantime, planning the integration of two distinct healthcare systems will take time, some give-and-take over governance, and finesse.  Wise administrators must produce an effective business plan and physician involvement is crucial to ensure integration never compromises patient services.  A strong partnership with East Tennessee State University and the Quillen College of Medicine and Gatton College of Pharmacy and other institutions of higher learning will ensure a robust pipeline for new physicians and research opportunities.

The Chambers were concerned that there would have to be a major culture shift now that two former fierce competitors are on the same team.  After discussions following the announcement, that concern has faded and both parties have worked together to develop the initial merger concept.  No one is looking in the rear view mirror – the focus is “becoming better together.”  Sometimes living in close-knit communities where relationships matter says it all.

It is a merger of two local systems.  There isn’t a takeover from outside.  We know the decision makers. They live and work here.  They are our friends and neighbors.  They, too, get their healthcare here. This isn’t them; it’s us.

From a business and community perspective, we greatly appreciate the tremendous amount of time, attention and analysis that went into making this extremely critical decision. We are so fortunate both systems have such compassionate and dedicated doctors, nurses, volunteers and staff and we remain encouraged they will now be one, unified and focused team.

With trust comes responsibility.  The Chambers believe that both Mountain States and Wellmont understand this and with great care have come to the decision to merge.  We wish them Godspeed.

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