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Board to vote on fate of UCMH

The Unicoi County Memorial Hospital Board of Control has set a meeting for Nov. 28 at 4 p.m. inside Erwin Town Hall to select one of two proposals submitted by regional health systems on Oct. 10 for purposes of acquisition of the hospital and its assets.
The meeting announcement was made after a strategic planning session with attorneys held Tuesday, Nov. 20.
The Nov. 28 meeting will be open to the public and the board plans to vote on proposals submitted by two health systems – Mountain States Health Alliance and Wellmont Health System.
“The board will accept one of the two proposals,” Board of Control Chairman Glenn Tilson said following the closed meeting on Nov. 20.
The meeting will be strictly for voting purposes, Tilson said.
“The public can attend, but no comments,” Tilson said.
Both proposals were released to the public for a second time on Nov. 21, Tilson said.
“We want to make sure they are still out there,” Tilson said.
After the closed session on Nov. 20, UCMH attorneys Lou Bissette and John Fleming, from the Asheville-based firm McGuire, Wood & Bissette, were available to comment on the board’s frequent private sessions to consider the acquisition of the hospital.
“It’s a good faith interpretation [of the law],” Bissette said. “We think the Tennessee statute that allows a hospital board to go into closed session for strategic planning purposes applies here.”
Tennessee Code Annotated 68-11-238 (a) states that public hospitals, “may discuss and develop marketing strategies and strategic plans in closed meetings, not open to the public, and the records addressing marketing strategies and strategic plans, including feasibility studies, may be treated as confidential and not public records, but shall be subject to subpoena.”
Both attorneys agreed they felt the discussions that take place in the closed meetings adhere to the law because they are based upon creating a strategic plan.
“It’s a specific exception for hospitals,” Fleming said. “We’re following that.”

By Kayla Carter
Staff Writer
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