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It's the latest chapter in a turbulent history for the Lee hospital, which closed almost four years ago. Wellmont Health System purchased it in 2007 as a package deal with Mountain View Regional Medical Center in Norton, Va., pitting itself against "Mountain States Health Alliance and its Norton Community Hospital," Rife reported at the time. Wellmont didn't really want Lee County, and some claim the hospital was poorly run on purpose in order to shore up Wellmont's bottom line so it would look more attractive to potential merger partners. Wellmont closed the hospital with little warning in October 2013, leaving 25,000 people without a nearby hospital. A state legislator pushed through a law to let local leaders create a governing board for the hospital and buy it from Wellmont. After an outcry from Pennington Gap citizens, Wellmont agreed to the $1.6 million sale, financed by a loan from the county government.
UPDATE, Sept. 20: Tennessee regulators have approved a merger of Wellmont and Mountain States, but Virginia has yet to approve it and the Federal Trade Commission objects to the process, Rife reports.