Residents urged to “give it a minute” by Mayor Ordiales
Mayor Liz Ordiales of Hiawassee is urging residents upset about the new medians at the crosswalk to “give it a minute” before forming an opinion.
“The intent was to prevent accidents,” Ordiales said in reference to the crosswalk at the Chatuge Regional Hospital. She said last year, a pedestrian was hit and injured crossing the street there. “The hospital has been asking for it for years.”
When the city council approved the crosswalk, they had to apply to the Georgia Department of Transportation since the road is a state road and any changes need to come through GDOT. The council pointed out that when they approved the cross walk, no median was involved.
“(GDOT) said they have to add a pedestrian refuge,” said one council member. A pedestrian refuge is a median.
“It’s their guidelines,” Ordials said. “I believe the purpose is if you are in a wheelchair or using a walker, you have enough time to get across without being in peril of getting hit.”
SEE CITY COUNCIL AGENDAS AND MINUTES HERE.
One council member received a text comment stating ambulances can’t turn left at the median due to space limits.
The council said the local GDOT representative has assured them they will address concerns on any issues.
Another issue they are hearing from in regards to the crosswalk is the cost. Ordiales said the project is about $80,000 in total, but the city is only on the hook for $10,000. The hospital is paying $10,000 and GDOT will cover $60,000.
“I believe the city should invest in the safety of the residents,” she said.
In the next few days, GDOT will be surveying traffic congestion and will possibly adjust the traffic light timing to help. They will also install an A-11 Thermal switch, allowing the EMA director to manually change the lights to flush the intersection if needed.
In other Hiawassee news, the city council:
- Approved the adoption of the fluoride referendum results certification resolution.
- Approved the appointment of Steven Harper to the Downtown Development Authority.
- Approved submitting an application to GEFA to defer loan payments plus interest for up to six months if needed.
- Approved spending $35,595 on a truck for the water department.
- Approved using Technology International to build a kayak ramp at Lloyd’s Landing at a cost of $25,893. The money will come from a previous SPLOST.
- Approved allowing the police department to open an account at South State Bank for drug seizure cash. Authorized signatures will be Chief Paul Smith and City Clerk Bonnie Kendrick.
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HIAWASSEE, Ga – On April 10, 2020, Union General Health System issued the following release concerning a Chatuge Regional Employee who has tested positive for COVID-19. Towns County Health Department received notification at the time of test.
The employee last worked at Chatuge on April 2 and wasn’t exhibiting symptoms at that time. Their positive test came back on April 9. Fetch Your News asked a Union General Hospital representative who decided to administer a COVID-19 test. They didn’t know as they weren’t there at the time.
The representative did confirm that the employee was definitely asked to isolate and follow CDC guidelines like all Union General Health System employees.
Part of the CDC guidelines and Union General’s protocol includes wearing all proper medical attire when entering a patient’s room, so inpatients should have experienced minimal exposure to the positive employee. The press release also stated that no inpatients are currently suspected of having COVID-19.
Read the entire release below:
Union General Health System implements best practices in compliance with CDC and DPH guidance. Patient safety and ensuring the highest quality of care is a priority for the entire Union General Health System. As a community partner, Union General seeks to ensure that the community has accurate information and to ensure that inaccurate statements are corrected.
Specifically, Chatuge Regional Hospital has one employee that tested positive for COVID-19. The employee last worked at Chatuge on Thursday, April 2. The employee had no symptoms while working last week.
The employee was instructed to isolate and distance from other people per the CDC guidelines upon being tested. Notification was made to the Towns County Public Health Department at the time of the test, and the positive result was returned on Thursday, April 9. The employee will not return to work until clear of COVID-19 infection per the CDC guidelines. Anyone with a potential exposure to this employee will be contacted and given instructions on self-monitoring and offered testing as per the CDC and Georgia DPH guidelines. It is believed that this employee’s infection is likely related to a community exposure as no suspected or confirmed COVID-19 patients are being treated as inpatients at Chatuge Regional Hospital.
Our employees have received education on COVID-19 signs and symptoms and the CDC guidelines surrounding this illness, including isolation precautions. All employees are screened daily prior to working with temperature check and screened for any signs or symptoms of COVID-19. Union General Health System continues to monitor CDC and CMS guidance related to COVID-19 and will continue to collaborate with the Department of Public Health.
Fetch Your News will update this story as more information becomes available.
YOUNG HARRIS, Ga. – Children at Towns County Child Development Center received a visit from Towns County Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Thursday, July 18, and enjoyed an opportunity to learn about the functions of the newest ambulance added to the fleet. The children marveled at the lights and siren, and asked emergency medical staff questions about the onboard equipment used in emergency care.
Towns County EMS added the additional ambulance to its fleet in late-May. The updated steel module carries twice the capacity than the one it replaced, necessary in the event of a multi-casualty accident. The module features a generator and bright LED lighting, allowing medics to function more efficiently in dimly-lit environments.
The vehicle is equipped with a growler siren system which sounds on an ultra-low frequency, physically vibrating and alerting drivers and pedestrians in high-density areas, such as intersections.
Towns County EMS, which consists of full-time and part-time paramedics and emergency medical technicians (EMTs), responds to approximately 2,000 calls per year, additionally providing transfers from Chatuge Regional Hospital.
Feature Image: Towns County EMT Jonathan Wilson, answering the children’s questions.
HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Towns County Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw recently announced insurance coverage renewal with emergency medical flight service, Air Methods, stating that Towns County citizens will be covered by the program, free of charge, for yet another year. The insurance program costs the county $14,000 annually, and the commissioner stated that while citizens will receive the same service at the same cost as in the past, a financial cap limit was placed on transports. “It doesn’t matter how many people are flown out, the cost remains the same,” Bradshaw told FYN. “However, the county will pay $700 per flight, and for example, if only five people are flown out this year, it would amount to only $3,500.”
“Air Methods is the helicopter service based at Union General Hospital which is the membership being paid for by Union General Hospital, Chatuge Regional Hospital, and both Union and Towns County Commissioner’s Offices,” a spokesperson with Union Generl Hospital explained. “This free membership covers you locally, as well as in 48 states throughout the country, where Air Methods helicopters are based. For instance, if you are a resident of Union or Towns County and go to Florida on vacation and needed to be life-flighted, as long as you use an Air Methods Company Medical Helicopter, you would be covered under the membership being paid for by Union General Hospital, Chatuge Regional Hospital, and Union and Towns County Commissioner’s Offices.
“On average, a medical helicopter flight in this area costs in the range of $30,000 to $50,000. Residents of Union and Towns Counties will not have any out-of-pocket expenses for them to use an Air Methods Medical Helicopter in an emergency situation. Any resident of Union or Towns Counties that use the Air Methods helicopter will receive a bill in the mail; however, the membership will take care of what the insurance does not cover. If someone does not have insurance this program will pay all of the costs. Proof of residency will be required to be sent in with the bill.”
HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Officials are in the process of planning a full-scale emergency response drill in Towns and Union Counties, consisting of a prison break and active shooter scenario. Meetings were held April 15, and today, April 24, at the Emergency Operations Center in Blairsville. The exercise is scheduled Friday, May 3, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
The drill is directed jointly by the Georgia Mountains Healthcare Coalition and the Northeast Georgia Health System. The purpose is to review local and regional coordination in an effort to address preparedness gaps and identify areas for improvement in response to an active shooter scenario. Locations of the training will include a Hiawassee doctor’s office and Union County Farmers Market. Medical response evaluations will occur at Chatuge Regional and Union General Hospitals. Multiple “casualties” and “fatalities” will ensue during the mock crisis.
The focus in Towns and Union Counties is to review the response, coordination and communications among community partners. To the extent possible, organizers asking for emergency agencies to participate as much as possible considering their own available resources. The more effort that is exhibited towards situational realism, the better the training, the manual for the drill reads.
The dramatization script accompanying the training follows:
Local law enforcement, fire and rescue crews, and emergency medical staff will participate in the drill. “The exercise is written with the healthcare organizations goals in mind, but it offers an opportunity for the community to be involved for training and skill development within the discipline of each group,” the situational manual explains. “The National Planning Scenarios and the establishment of the National Preparedness Priorities have steered the focus of homeland security toward a capabilities-based approach. Capabilities-based planning focuses on planning under uncertainty, since the next danger or disaster can never be forecast with complete accuracy. Therefore, capabilities-based planning takes an all-hazards approach to planning and preparation that builds on capabilities which can be applied to a wide variety of incidents.”
HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Georgia Mountain Healthcare Coalition, which consists of Chatuge Regional and Union General Hospitals, is planning an active shooter drill designed for emergency medical providers. The four hour drill will take place in early May in Towns and Union Counties. In sum, the exercise will involve a prison break and active shooter scenerio. Chatuge Regional Hospital in Hiawassee and Union General Hospital in Blairsville will provide mock treatment for 15 “victims.”
Georgia’s Healthcare Preparedness Program is directly funded by the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR) through the Hospital Preparedness Program (HPP). HPP’s mission is to prepare the health care system to save lives through the support of regional health care coalitions (HCC). HCCs are groups of health care and response organizations that collaborate to prepare for and respond to medical surge events. HCCs incentivize diverse and often competitive health care organizations to work together. They are comprised of Banks, Dawson, Habersham, Hall, Lumpkin, Rabun, Stephens, Towns, Union and White Counties.
“The exercise is written with the healthcare organizations goals in mind, but it offers an opportunity for the community to be involved for training and skill development within the discipline of each group,” the situational manual explains. “The National Planning Scenarios and the establishment of the National Preparedness Priorities have steered the focus of homeland security toward a capabilities-based approach. Capabilities-based planning focuses on planning under uncertainty, since the next danger or disaster can never be forecast with complete accuracy. Therefore, capabilities-based planning takes an all-hazards approach to planning and preparation that builds on capabilities which can be applied to a wide variety of incidents.
“The Homeland Security and Exercise Evaluation Program (HSEEP) and our own healthcare standards governing bodies emphasize capabilities-based planning. The intent is to identify a baseline assessment of their homeland security efforts. We do this by comparing current capabilities against the Core Capabilities of our established industry standards.”
Evaluation of the exercise is based on the exercise objectives and aligned capabilities, capability targets, and critical tasks, which are documented in Exercise Evaluation Guides (EEG). Evaluators have EEGs for each of their assigned areas. Additionally, players will be asked to complete participant feedback forms. These documents, coupled with facilitator observations and notes, will be used to evaluate the exercise and compile an After-Action Report.
HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Chatuge Regional Hospital was awarded national recognition for an overall five-star rating in quality from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). Chatuge Regional Hospital was one of five hospitals in the state of Georgia to receive a five-star quality rating, and the sole critical access hospital to receive the recognition. Fewer than 7 percent of the 4,500 Medicare-certified hospitals in the United States receive a five-star rating.
“We are extremely proud of our entire staff, which has made it possible to achieve these goals,” Chatuge Regional Hospital Administrator Ryan Snow said. “This five-star rating from CMS is a testament to the continuous effort made by our physicians and nurses to provide high-quality and safety-oriented patient care.”
Criteria evaluated in determining ratings include scores in mortality, safety of care, readmission, patient experience, effectiveness of care, timeliness of care, and efficient use of medical imaging.
Chatuge Regional Hospital initially opened as a 13 bed hospital, and has served the community for 54 years. The hospital was first named Lee M. Happ Jr. Memorial Hospital. The name changed in 1960 to Towns County Hospital, becoming Chatuge Regional Hospital in 1994.
To compare Chatuge Regional Hospital’s rating to surrounding hospitals, visit medicare.gov
For additional information, call Chatuge Regional Hospital at 706-896-2222.
HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Emergency situations can happen to anyone, at any time, and living in a fairly remote area with limited medical resources poses concern for some residents should an urgent care scenario arise. While Chatuge Regional Hospital is well-equipped to handle standard ailments, trauma patients are regulary flown to distant facilities for advanced treatment.
Towns County citizens are automatically enrolled in coverage, at no charge, through AirMethods, also known as Life Flight, an air ambulance service that transports urgent care patients to trauma centers. Residents within the city limits of Hiawassee, however, are dually covered through an additional air flight insurance program: AirMed, commonly referred to as LifeForce.
The secondary flight insurance granted to Hiawassee citizens, thanks to the initiative of Hiawassee Mayor Liz Ordiales, is available to county residents seeking increased peace of mind. In the event that LifeFlight is engaged in service, or grounded due to maintenance, LifeForce is dispatched to one of the four landing zones within the county’s perimeter. The cost to those lacking LifeForce insurance can reach in excess of $30,000 for a single life-saving transport. Additionally, if multiple accident victims are simultaneously in need of advanced medical care, the helicopters are limited to one patient per flight.
AirMed Representative Shane Headrick presented invited information on the insurance program to local residents at the Towns County Civic Center on Thursday, Sept. 19. For an annual payment of $85.00, Towns County citizens are assured flight coverage to a trauma center through LifeForce at no out-of-pocket cost. For seniors, 60 years and older, annual membership is $65.00, respectfully. The price of a single membership covers emergency flight transport for the enrolled member’s complete household.
According to Headrick, LifeForce transported 73 patients from Towns County last year. In comparision, 68 trauma victims were airlifted from Union County, with over 300 Fannin County patients provided flight transportation by the company in 2017.
The air ambulance is staffed with a pilot, a flight paramedic, and a flight nurse, with Headrick equating the level of service provided to that of a portable emergency room. Patients are swiftly transported to advanced trauma facilities in Atlanta, Asheville, Gainesville, Knoxville, or Chattanooga. “The rule of thumb is that we’re taking you to the nearest one,” Headrick explained. Furthermore, insurance members who have ventured outside the confines of the county are likewise covered if airlifted by a LifeForce ambulance flight provider.
LifeForce operates from over 320 locations, spanned across 39 states. The emergency flight service recently deployed 12 aircraft to the eastern seaboard, staffed with 72 crew members, to assist in the aftermath of Hurricane Florence.
Additional information on the AirMed/LifeForce insurance program can be found online, or by dialing Local Membership Sales Manager Shane Headrick at 706-483-4428.
Photo Credit: Vertical Magazine
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BLAIRSVILLE, Ga. – During the Board of Directors meeting Tuesday, Feb. 27, administrators of Union General Hospital got a first-hand look at some the hospital’s newest expansions and renovations on the campus.
Lewis Kelley, chief executive officer of Union General, took officials on a guided tour of the hospital’s forthcoming orthopedic wing to be shared by Dr. Ronald A. Macbeth Jr. and Dr. Douglas Nuelle. The wing features three exams for each doctor as well as one fracture room and one x-ray room to be shared by both physicians. It is large enough to support three total providers and contains a spacious waiting room for patients.
According to Kelley during the tour, the wing is a renovation of one of the oldest areas of Union General and is expected to open the second week of March.
Next, hospitals hopped in vehicles and took a short ride down Deep South Farm Road from the main facility to to get a look at a new two-story medical office facility that will be leased to family practice physician, Dr. Thomas Gary, and Northeast Georgia Cardiology. Gary’s family practice will occupy the top, street-level floor of the new facility while the bottom floor will serve as the new home of Northeast Georgia Cardiology. Gary’s space will consist of 20 exam rooms and will host seven total healthcare providers, according to Kelley. The Northeast Georgia facility will feature state-of-the-art open work space amenities complete with 18 exam rooms, a treadmill room and nuclear stress test room.
Back at the board meeting room within Union General, Chief Nursing Officer (CNO) Julia Barnett gave a brief medical staff update for Chatuge Regional Hospital in Hiawassee. Barnett reported the medical staff is working to improve customer service throughout the facility in an effort to improve Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) scores for the facility. As a result, all bedside nurses are now performing callbacks for all inpatients, Barnett stated.
“We already do those here at Union. I’m pleased to hear (Chatuge) is doing that, so on all their inpatients, observation patients, swingbed patients – so anybody on the inpatient side, they’re having the bedside nurses call for follow-up phone calls … and they have plans to start ER (emergency room) callbacks soon in the future,” Barnett said.
Ryan Snow, assistant administrator, presented an update on the forthcoming Chatuge Behavioral Health facility, set to open March 5 in Hiawassee. “We’re very excited about that,” Snow said.
Snow also stated Georgia Commissioner of the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities (DBHDD) Frank Berry recently toured the facility and was pleased the progress at Chatuge. “It was nice to be able to show him some of things that we were looking at (in) expanding our footprint in mental health in Hiawassee,” Snow stated.
Bringing the focus of the meeting to Union General, CNO Barnett reported to the board UGH received a five-star rating according to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Hospital Compare website report in December 2017. Barnett went on to say UGH is one of only six hospitals in Georgia to receive such a rating and no other medical facility in the region holds the same distinction. According to Barnett, UGH will hold the five-star rating at least until June 2018 when the newest ratings from CMS are released.
CMS rates over 4,000 hospitals nationwide on its Hospital Compare website and bases its ratings on 57 quality measures within seven areas of focus: mortality, safety of care, readmission, patient experience, effectiveness of care, timeliness of care and the efficient use of medical imaging. Only 337 hospitals across the nation received a five out of five star rating in CMS’ December release.
Barnett also announced UGH was ranked number 43 in the top 100 SafeCare Hopsitals in the nation, which falls in the top 1 percent nationwide in hospital safety. According to Barnettt’s report, UGH was the only hospital in Georgia ranked in the top 100 in this category.
Chief Operating Officer (COO) Michael Gay gave a construction update and stated the hospital would relocating its endoscopy staff to a temporary area within the next two weeks to allow renovation of the hospital’s endoscopy wing. Gay said the construction would likely take 12 to 14 weeks to complete.
Gay also mentioned the new parking employee lot directly across Deep South Farm Road is nearing completion.
“We’re working very closely with the county now to go ahead put in the lights for the crosswalk … but we actually do not want to start utilizing that area until we get those lights up and going. The county said that we’re probably about three or four weeks away from being able to have that completed,” Gay explained.
The COO also read an email he had received from the hospital’s valet parking supervisor, Michael Gailey. Gay reminded the board of how busy the hospital has been recently and said, “One of things that people see when they walk in this building is our valet people.”
In the email, Gailey shared with Gay the story of a couple who had needed to frequent the hospital several times a week for the past six months. Gailey told of the attentiveness and kind service the valet staff had shown to the couple during their visits to the hospital. Recently, the husband stopped by the valet station, and as the attendant offered to retrieve the wheelchair from the couple’s vehicle for the man’s wife, the man told the attendant that was not necessary. The man explained to the attendant his wife had passed away earlier that morning and that his wife told him the night before, “Please go by and tell the attendants what an impact they’ve had on my life.”
“A lot of times we hear a lot of the negatives that go on,” Gay said. “I just wanted to share something that – although it’s such a tough time for this person in (his) life – what this hospital and that valet parking meant to them.”
Fetch Your News is a hyper local news outlet that attracts more than 300,000 page views and 3.5 million impressions per month in Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, Union, Towns and Murray counties as well as Cherokee County in N.C. FYNTV attracts approximately 15,000 viewers per week and reaches between 15,000 to 60,000 per week on our Facebook page. For the most effective, least expensive local advertising, call 706-276-6397 or email us at advertise@FetchYourNews.com
HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Towns County and Hiawassee City Officials convened with citizens on Tuesday, Nov. 14, 2017, for a community stakeholders meeting to learn the fundamentals of a $250,000 grant received by Chatuge Regional Hospital from the Rural Hospital Stabilization Committee. The grant was awarded to assist with the treatment of mental health and substance abuse issues in the area.
Grant Director and Psychiatric Registered Nurse Elizabeth McKeon presented a slideshow revealing what the grant entails. The program is intended to stabilize individuals in need of treatment, offer group therapy led by professionals, and provide one-on-one care on an as-needed basis. The goal is to produce a safer community and reduce non-emergent 911 calls and emergency room visits while addressing the needs of those suffering from mental illness and addiction in the community.
“We’re in a nationwide crisis right now, ” Elizabeth McKeon said. “All mental illness is an illness, not a choice.”
According to McKeon, one in five adults suffer from a mental illness. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and General Anxiety Disorder rates are twice the national average in the state of Georgia. Suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in the United States with an average of 121 people dying each day.
Dr. Shelly McIntyre, a physician at Chatuge Regional Hospital, says substance abuse statistics have risen considerably. “It’s worse than a few years ago,” McIntyre said, referencing opioids and Xanax. “The use by the elderly and younger kids is horrible.”
Ryan Snow, an administrator at Chatuge Regional Hospital, says he hopes this is the first of many conversations with the community. “We will talk to any organization, church, etc. We would love to come tell about it,” Snow offered.
Also of note is the expansion of a Telemedicine program designed to allow school children immediate access to physician care. “It is tasked to keep students in school and lower absentee rates,” Lewis Kelley, CEO of Union General and Chatuge Regional Hospital, explained. “I feel like this is where medicine is going in the future. We need to look at alternatives to meet medical needs.”
Telemedicine is the use of telecommunication and information technology in order to provide clinical health care from a distance.
Official attendees of the presentation included Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw, Towns County Fire Chief and Coroner Harold Copeland, EMA Director Rickey Mathis, Hiawassee Mayor-Elect Liz Ordiales and Towns County Sheriff’s Deputy John McCoy.
Commissioner Bradshaw invited Chatuge Regional Administrator Ryan Snow to readdress the public at the Commissioner’s meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 21, at 5:30 p.m. at the Towns County Courthouse.
Featured Image: Grant Director and Registered Psychiatric Nurse Elizabeth McKeon
Fetch Your News is a hyper local news outlet that attracts more than 300,000 page views and 3.5 million impressions per month in Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, Union, Towns and Murray counties as well as Cherokee County in N.C. – FYNTV attracts approximately 15,000 viewers per week and reaches between 15,000 to 60,000 per week on our Facebook page. – For the most effective, least expensive local advertising, call 706-276-6397 or email us at advertise@FetchYourNews.com