JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. -- The market consolidating force of Columbia/HCA Healthcare Corp. has swept through the northeast corner of Tennessee, where a proposed joint venture between Columbia and not-for-profit Johnson City Medical Center Hospital ultimately split the eight-hospital market into two not-for-profit systems.
One of the systems, Wellmont Health System, has been feeling some growing pains.
On March 15, a group of physicians at one of the Wellmont hospitals, Kingsport, Tenn.-based Wellmont Holston Valley Medical Center, called for a vote of no confidence in the system's management contract with Quorum Health Resources, the management arm of Quorum Health Group. They complained that closed units and cuts in personnel and nursing staff caused long waits in the hospital's emergency room and jeopardized the quality of care.
The following day, Wellmont's chief financial officer, Dave Nowiski -- a Quorum employee -- resigned.
In response, Wellmont's board of directors decided to maintain its relationship with Quorum, keeping Eddie George -- also a Quorum employee -- as chief executive officer. But all other administrators are to become Wellmont employees, and Quorum will serve as a consultant to the system rather than a full-time manager.
Not-for-profits Wellmont Bristol Regional Medical Center and Wellmont Holston Valley, long-time rivals, formed the Wellmont system in July 1996, 11 months after Columbia and not-for-profit Johnson City Medical Center Hospital proposed their joint venture. At that point, the Wellmont system's hospitals came under Quorum management because of a relationship between Bristol and Quorum that dated back to 1982.
The Columbia-Johnson City deal would have brought Johnson City under the same umbrella as for-profit Columbia, which at that point owned four hospitals in the TriCities market: Indian Path Medical Center in Kingsport, North Side Hospital and Johnson City Specialty Hospital in Johnson City, and Sycamore Shoals Hospital in Elizabethton.
The on-again, off-again deal fell through in January 1996, but in August 1998, Johnson City acquired six Columbia hospitals in the area for $300 million as part of a deal between Columbia and a not-for-profit consortium that bought 21 Columbia hospitals. Now the TriCities system is called Mountain States Health Alliance.