UCMH Board of Control votes to accept final MSHA acquisition agreement


ERWIN, Tenn. – Unicoi County Memorial Hospital took the next step toward officially joining Mountain States Health Alliance (MSHA) on Thursday as the hospital’s Board of Control voted to accept the final definitive agreement for the acquisition.

“By doing this, we’re securing the future of health care for Unicoi County,” said Roland Bailey, chairman of the Board of Control. “I think it’s a wonderful day for the Town of Erwin and for Unicoi County.”

The 5-1 vote, with one abstention, came at a public meeting at Erwin Town Hall. Now the Board of Control must submit the agreement along with additional information to the state attorney general’s office for approval. Once all the required information has been received by the attorney general, his office will have 45 days to review the material for the purpose of verifying that the sale price was fair and the board’s selection process followed proper procedures.

Pending approval, Unicoi County Memorial Hospital will be the 14th hospital in the MSHA system.

“This is a significant step toward securing this county’s health care for the long term,” said UCMH’s interim CEO, Jete Edmisson. “The benefits to the community will be so significant compared to anything we could’ve done before this partnership.

“No longer are we on an island by ourselves. Now we’re part of a bigger system, one that truly has the health care needs of Unicoi County at heart. I think everybody’s ready to move forward and be able to officially join MSHA.”

In the agreement with Unicoi County Memorial Hospital, MSHA promised to:

  • Continue hospital operations and assume the hospital’s debt;
  • Construct a new acute-care hospital in the Town of Erwin with at least 20 beds, following a comprehensive strategic planning effort to determine the community’s health care needs;
  • Commit a $2 million secured line of credit to be utilized by UCMH so the hospital could continue operating until the transaction is final;
  • Contribute $750,000 each to the Town of Erwin and to Unicoi County for a total contribution to the local government of $1.5 million;
  • Provide an additional $1 million to the Unicoi County Memorial Hospital Foundation that would serve unmet health care-related needs in the Town of Erwin and Unicoi County; and
  • Repurpose any outdated hospital facilities.

“I think it’s a new era for health care in Unicoi County,” said MSHA President and CEO Dennis Vonderfecht. “We’re eager to have Unicoi County Memorial Hospital officially join Mountain States and begin to receive the full benefits of our system.

“The team members at UCMH are dedicated to providing quality health care to this community, and we’re looking forward to giving them the resources they need to do that.”

Construction for the new UCMH is expected to start in 2015, with completion in early 2017. MSHA has located a 45-acre parcel of land on the south side of Erwin, next to Holiday Inn Express just off I-26, as the hospital’s future home.

MSHA has served in a management role since UCMH voted to accept MSHA’s letter of intent in November, providing resources and education opportunities to the hospital staff. The hospital has relied on the $2 million line of credit to keep things running during that time.

“One concern right now is that the $2 million credit line is quickly running out,” Vonderfecht said. “So we hope the attorney general’s review is as expeditious as possible for the sake of the hospital and the patients that it serves.”

MSHA’s short-term plans with UCMH once it becomes a part of MSHA include addressing critical facility and equipment needs as well as installing a new information technology system to integrate the hospital with other MSHA facilities and operations.

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