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Church Hill BMA resolution opposes proposed healthcare downgrades in Kingsport

Jeff Bobo • Dec 20, 2018 at 9:21 AM

CHURCH HILL — On Tuesday, the Board of Mayor and Aldermen became the region’s latest governmental entity to officially proclaim opposition to downgrades of  trauma care in Kingsport as well as the closure of Kingsport’s NICU and relocation of the Allandale cancer treatment center.

The BMA voted unanimously in favor of a resolution opposing Ballad’s intention of reducing Holston Valley Medical Center’s Trauma Center from a Level 1 to Level 3, leaving the region’s only Level 1 trauma care at Johnson City Medical Center.

The resolution also expresses opposition to Ballad’s proposed transfer of all NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit) services to JCMC, as well as the relocation of Allandale’s cancer treatment center to the campus of Indian Path Medical Center. 

Mayor Dennis Deal said there are many reasons to oppose Ballad’s plans, such as increased cost to patients and reducing ambulance availability by tying up local EMS with more road time.

However, increased travel time for patients and the impact that could have on their survival is the main concern

“They say there’s a ‘golden hour’ to get there if someone has trauma,” Deal told the BMA Tuesday. “I can’t speak of that. I’m not a physician, so I don’t know. But I know it takes 17 minutes from the city of Church Hill to get to Holston Valley (Medical Center) to the trauma center.”

Deal added, “It takes 36 minutes, and this is under good conditions, to get from Church Hill to the Johnson City Medical Center. That’s a big deal folks. And in wintertime, I-26 is (often) closed down due to weather.”

Deal noted that when Church Hill EMS shut down two years ago, the city allowed Hawkins EMS to use the city’s Fire Station No. 2, located just west of Volunteer High School, to maintain low response times.

Without use of that local facility for staging ambulances, Church Hill might not have an ambulance in town 24/7, Deal said.

“We stepped up to the plate, and now we’re losing our trauma center in Kingsport, which puts us in Johnson City,” Deal added. “As the largest city in Hawkins County, if we approve this resolution, that sends a message that we don’t want this to happen. We want to maintain the coverage that we currently have.”

Alderman Keith Gibson, who also serves on the Hawkins County Commission, noted that the commission added an extra resolution Monday opposing the relocation of Allandale’s cancer treatment center to the campus of Indian Path.

The cancer center wasn’t addressed in Church Hill’s original resolution, but was added Tuesday at the request of Gibson, as well as Alderman Tom Kern, who is also a county commissioner.

The main concern about the cancer center relocation is that patients will be billed an additional $130 facility fee, which isn’t covered by insurance due to the new cancer center being on the campus of a hospital.

“I was told there was a representative from Ballad Health down there (at Monday’s county commission meeting),” Gibson said. “He did not speak, but he listened, and the next thing you know they are postponing the moving (of the cancer treatment center).”

Gibson added, “I would think we need to include this as quick as we can. If we wait another month, they may be moved.”

Similar to the county commission resolutions approved Monday, the Church Hill resolution will be forwarded to Ballad, state legislators, the Tennessee health commissioner and anyone else in a position of authority over these decisions, asking them to reverse the proposed changes.

“If (a trauma patient) goes to Holston Valley, and it’s going to be a Trauma 3, if that doctor can’t perform whatever services he needs to, they send them on to Johnson City,” Deal said. “That’s unacceptable.”

Deal added, “You haven’t heard anything said about them cutting the cost of their services, have you? I rest my case.”

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