Ballad limits access of 'disruptive' protester at HVMC

Hank Hayes • Jun 28, 2019 at 2:30 PM

KINGSPORT — A top Ballad Health executive announced Friday that Ballad has limited access to Holston Valley Medical Center for one of the protesters opposing the health care system’s decision to relocate the hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit and Level One trauma center.

When asked who the individual was, a Ballad Health spokeswoman confirmed it was Dani Cook, who has led that protest in person and on social media.

After being presented a copy of the announcement, Cook had no comment.

“In sharing these changes, we have engaged in a respectful dialogue with people throughout the community, including those who have chosen to express their disagreement by protesting and setting up camp adjacent to our hospital property,” said Lindy White, vice president and CEO of Ballad Health’s Kingsport Market Operations. “We certainly respect the right of everyone to express their opinions, and for nearly two months we have accommodated their physical presence at the main entrance of our hospital. However, the continuing presence of one of the individuals on our property has become disruptive to our team members and to our patients. The presence of this individual on many occasions inside our hospital has created concern by our staff for the safety of our patients and themselves. In most cases, this individual’s presence has been disruptive to the important delivery of healthcare.”

Cook, according to White’s announcement, has repeatedly interfered with patient care by entering patient rooms and disagreeing with nurses and physicians over treatment plans.

“In one case, in which the protester was questioning a caregiver about a treatment plan, the patient involved said they did not agree with what the protester was saying and asked that the individual leave the room,” White reported. “This protester has created fear within the staff, and they do not feel empowered to address their concerns directly with the protester. We, as leaders, are called to advocate for our patients and our staff. Team members are parking in other lots, walking longer distances to their work entrance to not take a chance of being approached by this individual. Team members have shared that they initially thought this individual was rallying to support their hospital but now feel as if they are working to destroy it.

“Our team has directly shared that they are fearful of this protester, that they feel intimidated by this individual, and uncomfortable. ...This is unacceptable. We will continue to engage in a respectful dialogue with the community, but we cannot allow patient care to be disrupted or compromised, and we must provide a safe work environment for our team. As such, this individual will only be permitted to access hospital property to access care for themselves or for an immediate family member defined as a parent, child, or grandchild. ... This action is not intended to stop community members from expressing their opinions; it is intended to protect our patients and team members from harassment and interference.”