MSHA continues battle against Wellmont

By Stephen S. Glass
Star Staff

   JOHNSON CITY -- Mountain States Health Alliance filed a motion with an administrative law judge Friday contesting Wellmont Health System's certificate of need (CON) to build a new 65-bed acute-care hospital in Johnson City. Wellmont's CON was approved last October by the Tennessee Health Facilities Commission in Davidson County.
   MSHA Legal Counselor Frank Anderson said Friday that Wellmont's application for the CON "contained false, incorrect, and misleading information."
   According to Anderson, Wellmont presented inaccurate projections on the number of hospital beds that would be needed in Washington County by 2004. He maintains that the information had direct bearing on the approval of the CON. Anderson says that according to Tennessee Law it doesn't matter whether the information was "placed there intentionally or not by the applicant."
   Wellmont CEO Eddie George said Friday, however, that the "mathematical error" had been discussed by the commission before they granted approval to Wellmont's application.
   Anderson also contends that a member of the Health Facilities Commission, Charles Mann, voted to approve the CON despite a conflict of interest in the matter. Anderson said that Mann, who owns a surgical supply company, had a business relationship with both Wellmont and MSHA and should have disqualified himself from last year's hearings. Wellmont's CON was awarded narrowly by the commission in a 5-4 vote.
   Anderson noted that in a similar case in West Tennessee also involving Mann, a judge ruled that conflict of interest was grounds for revoking a CON granted to Jackson's Methodist Hospital.
   "The facts of [that] case are very similar to the contested Wellmont case, and MSHA officials believe...the ruling establishes the basis for vacating and voiding the CON awarded to Wellmont," Anderson said. "In addition, the admitted, false, and misleading information placed by Wellmont in their application to the Health Facilities Commission is a strong basis to revoke the CON awarded to Wellmont under Tennessee law."