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Ballad Health files motion to dismiss lawsuit

Staff report • Jun 10, 2019 at 5:48 PM

JOHNSON CITY — Ballad Health acted on Monday to dismiss a federal anti-trust lawsuit filed against it and all 11 members of Ballad’s board of directors.

“Today, lawyers for Ballad Health filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit filed against Ballad Health and its volunteer board members,” the health care provider said in a statement. “Not only have Ballad Health’s board members acted with total integrity at all times, they are each owed our gratitude for the hundreds of hours they spend, without pay, committed to our community, our education and health care systems. The motion to dismiss clearly demonstrates that the claims made by the plaintiffs are without merit.”

The lawsuit also was filed against ETSU Physicians.

The lawsuit sought to have Ballad’s board of directors reconstituted with new members who do not have a conflict of interest, while declaring the Ballad Certificate of Public Advantage (COPA) as inadequate when it comes to state supervision.

The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in Greeneville on April 12. Named as the plaintiffs were 10 Sullivan and Washington County residents: Christine and David Bearden, Teri Cook, Carolyn Gibbons, Elmer and Ladonna Greer, Mark Hutchins, Kevin Mitchell, Jamie Pierson and Crystal Regan.

The Tennessee Department of Health, in early 2018, approved a COPA which allowed for the merger of Mountain States Health Alliance and Wellmont Health Systems into Ballad Health.

The plaintiffs argued that the COPA does not provide for active state supervision of the composition of Ballad’s board of directors, claiming that three members of the board are essentially “serving two masters.”

The plaintiffs claimed that East Tennessee State University President Brian Noland, philanthropist and ETSU board member Scott Niswonger and ETSU board member David Golden have conflicts of interest that prohibit them from serving on Ballad’s board of directors.

The COPA is being monitored by the Tennessee Department of Health. The Tennessee Attorney General’s Office has said it supports the decision by Tennessee Department of Health Commissioner Lisa Piercy to approve Ballad Health’s request to consolidate neonatal intensive care unit services..

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