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NC Attorney General Stein Hears WNC Concerns On Mission Health-HCA Deal

Lilly Knoepp
Asheville-Buncombe NAACP President Carmen Ramos-Kennedy, Mitchell County physican Arch Woodard and former Governor Jay Nixon were part of the panel at the listening session.

Former Missouri Governor Jay Nixon visited Asheville last month to hear from concerned residents about Mission Health’s proposed sale to HCA.  Here’s more on what has happened since that meeting.


Risa Larsen is a member of the SEARCH committee. Based in Yancey and Mitchell counties, SEARCH stands for Sustaining Essential and Rural Community Healthcare. They have been one of the most outspoken groups outside of Asheville voicing their concerns about nonprofit Mission Health’s sale to for-profit HCA.


“We always try to make clear, we’re not against the sale. We just want it to have positive outcomes for every who is served by this hospital system,” says Larsen.


Last month, the group brought former Missouri governor Jay Nixon to Asheville. Nixon handled a similar deal in Missouri during his time as attorney general and governor there. He attended a listening session to hear from concerned citizens and organizations from the 18 Western North Carolina counties in Mission Health’s footprint. After visiting Asheville, Nixon headed to Raleigh where he spoke to state Attorney General Josh Stein, who must approve the sale before it can be finalized.


“I would say that we accomplished even more than we might have hoped for bringing Governor Nixon down from Missouri,” says Larsen.


The meeting was closed but Nixon says he echoed the points made at the Listening Session.


He particularly focused on how to improve the setup of the Dogwood Health Trust through greater transparency, a more diverse board and a clear mission. The  SEARCH team and Nixon also met with Jennifer Harrod, special deputy attorney general and general counsel Swain Wood.

During that meeting, SEARCH says that Nixon shared the importance of making the Dogwood Health Trust foundation board of directors equitable as well as separate from Mission Health and HCA.  

“If you sell a house, you don’t get to live in it,” says Nixon according to SEARCH meeting minutes.  


Larsen says SEARCH hopes that Stein will make the changes recommended by Nixon.


“We’re sympathetic to their cause but we need them to know that we need these rural hospitals. And we need them to vibrant to bring industry back into these areas,” says Larsen.


SEARCH was founded in 2017 when Spruce Pine’s Labor and Delivery Unit closed.  No matter the outcome of the sale, Larsen says SEARCH will continue working to improve healthcare in the area.


Highlands Mayor Patrick Taylor and Franklin Mayor Bob Scott also met with the Attorney General’s team on November 9th to discuss their concerns about the sale.

Their meeting focused on the importance of rural hospitals and the structure of Dogwood Health Trust. Additionally, Taylor recommended a buy-back option for Highlands-Cashiers Hospital if HCA should ever try to sell it, according to The Highlander.

Attorney General Stein still has not commented on the sale. The deal is expected to be finalized by the end of the year.


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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