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Behind Wellmont Health's Search for a Partner

John Commins, for HealthLeaders Media, January 22, 2014

HLM: Are you looking at an affiliation or an outright acquisition?

DeNarvaez: We have no preconceived notions of what the partnership should or shouldn't be. We will have a financial advisor go through this process with us because we need to reconcile what we may want versus what a partner might want.

We are aware that for some partners, a clinical affiliation might be of interest. It may not be for some entities. And it may not meet our needs either. We want the right partner who meets our needs and we can get the kind of commitments to the community and the health of the community that we are looking for. We are not looking to acquire another entity. We would be willing to be acquired another entity.

HLM: Is this a hard sell for your community?

DeNarvaez: I have been proud of our community. For the most part we were concerned about being very vocal with our community in advance of actually beginning this phase of the investigation. But it is a community asset and we felt it was the right thing to do. They have responded with gratefulness that we have kept them apprised of what we are doing and that this isn't going on in a smoke-filled backroom.

The community includes successful businessmen who understand that size and scale matter, getting both intellectual and fiscal capital matters. I personally haven't heard anything but positive comments. That's very telling about using an approach that is not going to be done haphazardly.

It's going to be done very thoughtfully. And it is meant to be in the best interests of the community. We have a sophisticated board that is trusted by the community and that goes a long way toward making them feel comfortable about the process and the people who are driving it.

HLM: Both Tennessee and Virginia have rejected Medicaid expansion money. Was that a factor in your decision to seek a partner?

DeNarvaez: It wasn't the factor, but there is no question that it was a factor. Generally speaking it is just another indication of how hard it is to have a solid fiscal plan when in our case, 70% of our revenues come from a government source that is very much subjected to that type of decision making.

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