Wellmont certificate denied
By Kathy Helms-Hughes


   Wellmont Health System says it will immediately appeal a ruling Friday by Administrative Law Judge Blair Morgan of Nashville which granted Mountain States Health Alliance's motions and vacated Wellmont's Certificate of Need for the construction of a hospital in Johnson City.
   Wellmont President and Chief Executive Officer Eddie George said he is confident the ruling will be overturned on appeal. The judge granted Mountain States' motion for summary judgment in its appeal of Wellmont's certificate of need for the new hospital, ruling that Health Facilities Commission member Charles Mann may have had a conflict of interest when he voted to grant Wellmont's certificate. Mann, who moved for the project's approval, cast the deciding vote.
   Mann's surgical supply company does business with both Mountain States and Wellmont.
   "Mountain States has now raised this same issue before three different judges," George said. "Two of the three judges have ruled in our favor. Today, one did not."
   Attorneys for Wellmont are reviewing the order and are considering other legal options.
   "We are extremely disappointed that Mountain States has seized upon yet another tactic that will cause delay in Wellmont's efforts to provide the citizens of Washington County with this much needed hospital," George said. "We will appeal and we will prevail."
   Mountain States President/CEO Dennis Vonderfecht said, "We are very pleased with the judge's decisions on the two separate motions.
   "By ruling in favor of the two motions filed by Mountain States Health Alliance, the administrative law judge is supporting our position that a conflict-of-interest existed and the erroneous data presented to the HFC was misleading," Vonderfecht said.
   "We believe the judge's rulings support our position that this hospital is not needed in Washington County."
   Wellmont filed an application around July 13, 2000, with the Tennessee Health Facilities Commission for a certificate of need. Wellmont sought permission to construct and operate a new, for-profit 65 bed hospital to be located about a mile from Johnson City Medical Center.
   Wellmont said in the application that 8,186 patients from Sullivan County were admitted to Washington County hospitals in 1998. The actual figure, however, was 1,186. The application also projected 32,095 admissions for Washington County hospitals in 2004. Based on Welmont's methodology, the actual figure was overstated by 7,592 admissions.