Wellmont files petition for reconsideration

From Staff Reports

   Wellmont officials said yesterday that the decision by an administrative law judge to vacate Wellmont Health System's certificate of need for a new Washington County hospital was based on incomplete information and should be set aside,
   In a petition for reconsideration filed this afternoon, Wellmont asked Administrative Law Judge Blair Scoville Morgan to reconsider her decision, arguing the initial order was in error. Specifically, the petition for reconsideration details 11 issues in the judge's March 8 ruling.
   "We are hopeful Judge Scoville Morgan will carefully consider the information we've placed before her today and render a decision that's in the best interest of health care in Washington County," said Wellmont Senior Vice President of Legal Affairs Gary Miller. "We believe both the facts and the law are clearly on our side."
   Among the issues detailed by the petition are:
   * Judge Scoville Morgan found as fact that Tennessee Health Facilities Commission member Charles Mann's vote in favor of a new Wellmont hospital was decisive. In fact, another commission member -- the commission chairman -- was present at the commission's Oct. 25, 2000, meeting and could have voted in the event of a tie.
   * Judge Scoville Morgan found as fact that Specialty Surgical Instrumentation, Mann's company, would more likely than not sell more surgical instruments if Wellmont's Washington County hospital is built. In reality, there has been no indication Wellmont's new hospital will do business with SSI.
   * Judge Scoville Morgan found as fact that an inadvertent error in Wellmont's certificate of need application was material to the Health Facilities Commission's decision to approve the application. Again, there is no evidence the error -- which was fully disclosed before the commission vote impacted the commission's decision.
   * Judge Scoville Morgan ruled Mann's business ties with both Wellmont and Mountain States Health Alliance constitute a conflict of interest and thus nullify his vote. But the judge did not set aside the vote of Health Facilities Commission member Janet Givens Jones. Jones, who voted against the Wellmont CON, is the administrator of Erwin Health Care Center in Erwin, a nursing home that has a direct contractual relationship with Mountain States.
   "We are simply asking Judge Scoville Morgan to apply the same standard to all members of the Health Facilities Commission," Miller said. "If Charles Mann has a conflict of interest because his company does business with both Mountain States and Wellmont, Janet Givens Jones, whose company does business with only Mountain States, most assuredly has a conflict of interest."
   Judge Scoville Morgan now has 20 days to rule on the petition for reconsideration. Wellmont President and Chief Executive Officer Eddie George said he is optimistic the judge will reverse her earlier decision.
   Ed Herbert, MSHA Vice President, issued a short statement concerning the rival hospital's appeal. "To make any statement at this time without all of the information would be premature," Herbert said.