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Former Missouri Governor To Talk Mission Health-HCA Deal With NC Attorney General

Lilly Knoepp
Panelists at the listening session at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Asheville. From left to right: Connie Sales, Jacob Willis, Carmen Ramos-Kennedy, Jay Nixon and Karin Rolett.

  The Mission Health sale to HCA still sits on the desk of the North Carolina Attorney General waiting for approval. A local group of citizens have invited a former Missouri governor - who worked on a similar deal with HCA - to speak to the Attorney General’s staff in North Carolina about what he learned from his experiences.

Former Missouri governor Jay Nixon has been in public office for over 30 years. During his time as that state’s attorney general, he worked to make sure that a public foundation was set up as a part of a huge transaction with HCA. That’s one reason why the SEARCH community organization from Yancey and Mitchell counties, as well as other WNC organizations, asked him to come to Asheville for a listening session this week.

Credit Lilly Knoepp
The cluster of pins on this map shows where Dogwood Health Trust Board Members live compared to the locations of Mission System Hospitals.

At the event, Nixon heard from leaders across the region including Mitchell County Commissioner Jacob Willis and Asheville-Buncombe NAACP President Carmen Ramos-Kennedy who shared their concerns about the leadership of the Dogwood Health Trust. Karin Rolett of SEARCH moderated the panel.

Two citizens from Mitchell County also spoke: local doctor Arch Woodard and artist Connie Sales, who has an undiagnosed autoimmune disorder. They both told personal stories about how closures and losses of services in Spruce Pine have affected them. Community organizers and locals also shared their points of view.


Nixon hopes to bring all of these concerns to Attorney General Josh Stein.

“As mentioned by many folks these healthcare networks are fragile - you’ve already seen closings, you’ve already seen constrictions. What you want to do is use this transaction as a positive to have more healthcare opportunities in this region,” says Nixon. “Hopefully, I can provide my experience I’ve had on how governance in these boards can make a difference long run.”

Nixon says that the move from a non-profit hospital to a for-profit hospital must benefit the public - because the public are what made a non-profit hospital possible. He recommends three points to make that possible for Dogwood Health Trust: an independent oversight board, transparency and a clear purpose for the trust.  

Representation of all western counties in the Mission System on the Dogwood Health Trust board as well as racial and gender parity on the board were also major topics of discussion.

Ramos-Kennedy, president of the Asheville-Buncombe County NAACP, was clear in her call for current board members to step down to make room for new voices on the board.

“Asheville-Buncombe County NAACP and our twelve ally organizations call on the trust to create a board that has 50 percent gender parity and 25 percent people of color, based on historical disparities,” says Ramos-Kennedy.

Nixon will be in Raleigh on Friday to meet with the North Carolina Attorney General’s staff.


Lilly Knoepp serves as BPR’s first fulltime reporter covering Western North Carolina. She is a native of Franklin, NC who returns to WNC after serving as the assistant editor of Women@Forbes and digital producer of the Forbes podcast network. She holds a master’s degree in international journalism from the City University of New York and earned a double major from UNC-Chapel Hill in religious studies and political science.
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