An attempt to reach agreement on the array of disputes between Blount Memorial Hospital Inc. and the Blount County government failed Tuesday, March 14.
The mediation session began 9 a.m. Tuesday in Knoxville and lasted into the afternoon. Representatives of both parties told The Daily Times that confidentiality agreements prevent them from commenting on the substance of the discussions, but confirmed that the talks were unsuccessful.
BMH Inc.’s suit against the county began Dec. 21, 2022. It opened with a motion for a restraining order against the Blount County government and a request that the Blount County Chancery Court determine BMH Inc. the owner of certain hospital assets.
BMH Inc., the nonprofit entity that manages the hospital, asked, among other things, that it be permitted to conclude the $22.2 million sale of most of a health care facility in the Springbrook area of Alcoa.
The county responded with its own complaint in February, requesting that the court deem it the owner of hospital assets. Blount County Mayor Ed Mitchell has previously contested ownership of the Springbrook facility and the wisdom of the attempted sale. As the county owns the hospital, he wrote in a November letter to the BMH board of directors, it also owns all hospital assets, including the Springbrook facility.
Hospital CEO Harold Naramore has said that the hospital needed funds from the sale for a cash infusion amid a difficult time for health care providers. He told hospital board members that the deal was “dead” in a recent board meeting.
Attorneys for BMH Inc. have dropped the request for a restraining order, but political controversy over the hospital’s management predates the legal filings and continues. The county commission voted to remove all of its appointees to the hospital board in November 2022 and has voted in favor of amending both the charter of the hospital and the private act that created it.
A related proposal, authorizing Mitchell to negotiate with the University of Tennessee Medical Center and BMH Inc. regarding transferring the hospital’s management to UTMC, is on the county commission’s agenda for March. Attorneys for BMH Inc. sent UTMC a cease and desist demand letter concerning those negotiations in February.
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