James HowellStaff Writerjhowell@heartlandpublications.com
November 29, 2012
The final resolution of the sale of High Country Health Care Systems is nearing completion and the transfer of ownership will be decided by the Appalachian District’s Board of Health during its meeting Thursday, Nov. 29.
According to Beth Lovette, the director of the Appalachian District Health Department, Medical Services of American, a company based in Lexington, S.C., plans to purchase High Country Health Care Systems.
Medical Services of America also owns a hospice located in Avery County called Medi-Home Hospice.
“MSA became the top choice not only because of the fair purchase offer, but also because they are already a proven organization in the High Country. Medi-Home Care has an office in Sparta that provides durable medical equipment and supplies to clients in our are,” said Lovette.
“Medi-Home Hospice, out of Avery County, already provides hospice services in Watauga County. Both are subsidiaries of MSA. They have high marks for quality service and appear to be a stable company that will serve our communities well for years to come,” said Lovette.
According to Mary Fran Knight, the executive director of High Country Health Care, the bidding process for HCHCS has been made more complicated because “the health department is a public entity,” which is subject to certain legal statutes.
In the past, High Country Health Care Systems has been owned by two different entities. The Appalachian District Health Department owned 66.5 percent of HCHCS while Ashe Memorial Hospital owned the remaining 33.5 percent.
Also, High Country Health Systems is a non-profit organization that is governed by its own board, said Lovette.
According to Lovette, the Ashe County Health Department began searching for new buyers in June. Lovette said the owners opted to sell HCHCS because of a declining performance where “expenses exceeded revenues.”
Lovette said even if the board decides to approve the sale to Medical Services of America, additional approval needs to be made by “folks in Raleigh” because HCHCS is a non-profit, public entity.
During a Nov. 5 meeting with the Ashe County Board of Commissioners, Lovette said she didn’t believe jobs would be lost during the transfer of ownership.