The Pulse on South Georgia’s Healthcare

In the last decade, the insurance industry has undergone many major changes, affecting not only personal health care coverage options but also the available provision of quality health care. As a result of these changes, many small, rural hospitals have faced the prospect or reality of closure. For some, mergers with larger hospitals allowed continued service to area residents. For others, the Rural Hospital Tax Credit provided crucial financial assistance. Amid the many changes and despite the apparent struggle, South Georgia’s hospitals have fared well and are by many counts thriving. Most of the facilities in the region earned a great deal of recognition for the exceptional advancements in technology and services offered.

Archbold Memorial Hospital in Thomasville grew to encompass facilities in Cairo, Camilla, and Quitman, giving rise to greater collaborative efforts across medical centers in South Georgia. In 2016, Archbold was ranked fifth among Georgia’s large hospitals by Georgia Trend Magazine.

“Hospitals across the country are learning how to adapt to the biggest transformation the healthcare industry has seen in decades,” said Perry Mustian, Archbold president and CEO. “To overcome these challenges, Archbold is committed to managing our resources wisely, looking for ways to improve processes, and working collaboratively with our physicians to ensure patients in South Georgia have access to high quality, affordable healthcare.”

In 2016, Archbold’s Brooks County Hospital in Quitman received the distinguished Quality and Patient Safety Award from the Georgia Hospital Association’s Partnership for Health and Accountability for its initiative to reduce throughput in the Emergency Department. Upon implementing new processes, the ERs “door to doc” time (the time that occurs between patient registration and the patient seeing a physician) decreased from 38 minutes to 18 minutes.

“It’s wonderful for our hospital to be recognized for our efforts to improve patient care,” hospital administrator Nancy Little Williams said. “Our staff is truly committed to making a difference in our community, and we’re honored to be recognized for that sustained focus.”

Moving forward, BCH will continue to focus on improving emergency care and increasing patient satisfaction.

“Rural hospitals across the country are learning to adapt to the changes in health care nationally,” Williams said. “Our vision is to continue to adapt to these changes while remaining committed to providing high quality healthcare for residents of Brooks and surrounding counties.”

Since 2014, Colquitt Regional Medical Center completed an extensive expansion and renovation, and in 2016 the hospital received their fifth “A” Hospital Safety Score from the Leapfrog Group, the only hospital in South Georgia to reach this milestone. On top of numerous accolades, continued expansions, and technological improvements, Colquitt Regional also announced at the end of November that it earned The Joint Commission’s Gold Seal of Approval ® for Total Hip and Total Knee Replacement Certifications. The Gold Seal of Approval ® is a symbol of quality that reflects an organization’s commitment to providing safe and effective patient care.

“We know how dedicated our staff and physicians are, and we know that they deliver superior healthcare,” said Richard Bass, chairman of the Colquitt Regional Board of Trustees. “To have an outside organization come in and evaluate our health outcomes and rate us as one of the safest hospitals in the nation…. We could not be more thrilled!”

Archbold’s Grady General, located in Cairo, recently received recognition for the third consecutive year from Georgia Trend Magazine, this year being named third among small hospitals, the highest ranking in Southwest Georgia.

“I’m very proud of our team for consistently ranking among the highest performing hospitals in the state for the past three years,” Crystal Ramm, hospital administrator, said.

The hospital is currently focused on updating its sepsis protocol and improving patient care related to sepsis. The surgery team is also focused on improving surgical throughput while working to implement cost saving initiatives that ultimately translate into high quality, cost-effective healthcare.

“Grady General has a reputation for providing award-winning care, and our goal is to always sustain our past accomplishments,” Ramm said. “We will continue to evaluate changes that are occurring in healthcare on a national and state level while making adjustments accordingly to ensure future success for our organization.”

The second largest employer in Decatur County, Memorial Hospital & Manor in Bainbridge celebrates its 56th anniversary this year. The organization recently placed a great deal of emphasis on updating facilities with focus on its radiology and same-day medical surgical centers. A testament to its distinguished service, the hospital ranked among Georgia Trend Magazine’s top hospitals in the medium category. Additionally, the GHA’s Partnership for Health and Accountability recognized Memorial Hospital with its prestigious Quality and Patient Safety Award for 2016 for improvements in the Emergency Department.

“Our recent recognition from the GHA/PHA serves as a testament to our ability to provide excellent emergency care for our community,” Newton Cranford, quality coordinator, said. “We are proud to have earned such a prestigious honor.”

In February, Archbold’s Mitchell County Hospital, located in Camilla, completed a $1 million facility renovation focused on upgrading key patient areas. The entire second floor, including all patient rooms, restrooms, and nurse and physician work stations, were included in the construction. Additionally, a nurse practitioner was added to the inpatient medical unit in order to assist physicians with processing admissions, discharges, and acute issues. The hospital also seeks to add advanced practitioners for its hospital-based nursing home in efforts to help eliminate costly emergency room visits.

“Our ultimate goal is to continue to make MCH a workplace of choice that provides excellent, high quality healthcare to the residents of Mitchell County,” Jamie Womack, hospital administrator, said.

Additionally, the organization was awarded the coveted Quality and Patient Safety Award by the GHA’s Partnership for Health and Accountability for the implementation of a project that improved patient transition of care.

“We are so honored to be recognized for our efforts that made such a positive impact on patient care,” Womack said.

The Phoebe Putney Health System, which serves Albany, Sylvester, and Americus, is focused on growing its staff and network in order to provide the best possible care to patients.

“Phoebe Primary Care physicians provide a gateway to a network of more than 300 doctors, nurses, and specialists across 41 locations right here in southwest Georgia,” said Joel Wernick, president and CEO of Phoebe Putney Health System.

The organization is also taking advantage of available financial assistance intended to help smaller hospitals overcome economic hurdles.

“The Rural Hospital Tax credit program is a potential lifeline for financially challenged rural hospitals,” said Brandi Lunneborg, CEO of Phoebe Sumter Medical Center. “In our case, it will improve access to primary care and programs and technology in the small communities we serve throughout the region.”

In 2016, Phoebe introduced a new medical filing system and the Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement procedure, both of which will help to keep Phoebe at the forefront of medical excellence.

South Georgia Medical Center, which began in Valdosta, has expanded its reach to include facilities in North Valdosta, Lakeland, and Nashville. SGMC is widely known for its nationally recognized Pearlman Cancer Center and earned praise from various entities such as The American Heart Association, The American Stroke Association, the Georgia Hospital Association, and Georgia Trend Magazine. In 2014, 2015, and 2016, SGMC was ranked third among Georgia’s large hospitals in Georgia Trend.

When asked to describe what makes the organization successful, Director of Community Relations Laura Love said: “SGMC works tirelessly to provide quality healthcare to all who need our services. Our quest for excellence is ongoing, and patient satisfaction is at the forefront of our daily practice.”

Many other hospitals and clinics in South Georgia have also recently received recognition for exceptional service and care, affirming that a multitude of excellent options remain available to area residents in need of medical care. Agile and resilient, the region’s hospitals prove that even through trying times and economic hardship they can weather the changes while continuing to provide award-winning service and growing toward an even brighter future.


The Pulse on South Georgia’s Healthcare

Written by: Miranda Moore

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