Hospital is first healthcare organization in Georgia – and second organization in the state – to receive the award


Wellstar Health System, one of Georgia’s largest and most integrated healthcare systems, today announced that Wellstar Paulding Hospital has been awarded the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award, the nation’s highest level of recognition for performance excellence. Wellstar Paulding Hospital is the first healthcare organization in the state of Georgia to receive this award and the second organization in Georgia to ever receive it. The award is the nation’s only presidential award for performance excellence, recognizing U.S. organizations and businesses that have shown an unceasing drive for innovative solutions to complex challenges, visionary leadership, and operational excellence.

“We are honored that Wellstar Paulding Hospital, one of 11 hospitals in our system, is the first healthcare organization in the state to receive this award,” said Candice L. Saunders, president and CEO of Wellstar Health System. “This recognition is the result of our physicians, caregivers, and team members uniting around our shared vision – to deliver world-class healthcare to every person, every time. We are so proud of the Wellstar Paulding team for exemplifying what it means to be neighbors caring for neighbors and we are also grateful for the important work they do caring for their community.”

Named after Malcolm Baldrige, the 26th Secretary of Commerce, the Baldrige Award was established by Congress in 1987 to enhance the competitiveness and performance of U.S. businesses. Since the first group was recognized in 1988, 134 national-level awards have been presented to 124 organizations. The awards are handed out annually by the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and are considered the most prestigious U.S. recognition of quality performance. The six categories in which the awards are given include manufacturing, service, small business, education, nonprofit and healthcare — the category in which Wellstar Paulding Hospital won.

“Our team at Wellstar Paulding Hospital is honored and humbled to receive this award. Participating in the Baldrige program has challenged us to meet and exceed the high standards set by the organization,” said Wellstar Paulding Hospital President John Kueven. “We are committed to continually pursuing excellence and improving our processes while remaining focused on our mission to enhance the health and well-being of every person we serve.”

Highlights of Award-Winning Achievements Following a comprehensive virtual site visit, Baldrige Award examiners noted several outstanding achievements that led to their choice of Wellstar Paulding Hospital as one of the six national award recipients for 2020, including:

• Top 10% performance for its mortality index and for inpatient complications index within the national IBM Watson Health Top 100 Hospitals ® index.

• Top 10% in the nation for a sustained pressure ulcer rate of zero.

• Top 10% performance in the nation and rates in the top 100 of 1,800 organizations in all industries for team member engagement based on The Great Place to Work ® Trust Index © survey results.

Previously, Wellstar Paulding Hospital received the 2019 Oglethorpe Award – Georgia’s highest level of recognition for organizational performance excellence and a milestone on the national Baldrige Award journey.

NIST manages the Baldrige Award in cooperation with the private sector. An independent panel of judges reviewed the evaluations performed by the Baldrige Performance Excellence Program’s all-volunteer Board of Examiners and recommended this year’s award recipients from a field of 20 applicants. The expert Baldrige judges evaluate organizations in seven areas defined by the Baldrige Excellence Framework: leadership; strategy; customers; measurement, analysis and knowledge management; workforce; operations; and results.

ABOUT WELLSTAR HEALTH SYSTEM At Wellstar, people are at the center of everything we do. By listening actively to what people want, need and expect from their healthcare, Wellstar is able to provide “More than Healthcare. PeopleCare.” — at every age and stage. Nationally ranked and locally recognized for our personal, high-quality care, inclusive culture, and exceptional doctors and team members, Wellstar provides access to compassionate, high-quality care through our: 11 hospitals; 300+ medical office locations; 9 cancer centers; 74 rehabilitation centers; 3 hospice facilities; 1 retirement village; 29 imaging centers; 16 urgent care locations; and 5 health parks. As one of the largest and most integrated healthcare systems in Georgia, Wellstar is growing our services, footprint, capabilities, and ability to meet evolving patient needs. Our passion for people extends into the communities we serve. As a not-for-profit health system, we thoughtfully reinvest annually in prevention and wellness programs, as well as charity care for eligible patients. Our Wellstar Foundation also supports our mission to enhance the health and well-being of every person we serve with funding for equipment, services, and programs that provide more than healthcare. To learn more about how Wellstar is always listening, learning, and tailoring care to meet patients’ individual needs, visit


November is National Home Care and Hospice Month 2:28 pm

During November, the National Association for Home Care (NAHC) encourages all communities to celebrate National Home Care and Hospice Month, honoring the millions of nurses, home care aides, therapists and social workers who make a difference for the patients and families they serve.

“For the aged, disabled or ill, staying in the homes they know and love can become increasingly difficult unless they can get services they need to support them,” says Blake Nelson, director of Hamilton Home Health.

Home health care is medical care that is appropriate for people suffering from chronic illness or recovering from acute injury or illness who need skilled care to remain at home. Services include medication management, wound care, physical therapy, occupational therapy and other skilled services provided by licensed individuals. Some patients qualify for additional services such as home health aides and medical social workers when necessary to support skilled services.

Care requires a physician’s order and requires that the patient be under the care of a physician. Most insurers also require that the patient be homebound, meaning the patient only leaves home infrequently and it is very difficult to do so.

Home health care can be mistaken for personal or companion care (or non-medical care), which includes transportation, errands, light housekeeping, meal preparation and assistance with activities of daily living. Private sitters and some private and government agencies provide this type of care.

When a disease process has become terminal and patients and families are ready to shift the focus of care from curative treatment to comfort care and symptom control, hospice care allows patients to remain in familiar surroundings at the end of life. Hospice care provides support and education to the patient’s family during the patient’s time on hospice and for a specified time after the death of the patient.

Hospice provides four levels of care, including routine home care, respite care, general inpatient care and continuous home care. These levels are determined based on the patient’s needs and can be provided in the home, in a nursing home or assisted living facility or, in some cases, in the hospital.

“Choosing to receive hospice care does not mean you are giving up hope or that death is imminent. Hospice care allows the patient to live every day to the fullest,” says Lauren Jones, administrator and clinical manager for Hamilton Hospice. “The earlier someone receives hospice care, the more opportunity there is to stabilize his or her medical condition and address other needs. Some patients actually improve and may be discharged from hospice care.

Jones says one of the biggest fears of terminally ill patients is losing control of making their own decisions. “Utilizing a hospice program allows the patient and their loved ones to voice their opinions and concerns while being a part of creating their own plan of care with our interdisciplinary team as a whole,” she says.

Hospice focuses on comfort, dignity and emotional support.


“The quality of life for the patient, but also family members and others, who are caregivers, is the highest priority,” says Jones.


Hospice is appropriate when patients with a life-limiting illness discover that continued aggressive disease treatment is no longer effective, beneficial or desired.  


“This type of care not only ensures that symptoms are managed and medications and equipment are provided, but it also supports families and assists them in dealing with the emotional and physical strain that can accompany end-of-life situations,” Jones says.

Hospice care is a benefit of Medicare and most private insurers as long as the patient continues to meet the necessary criteria. The benefit pays for all care, equipment (including hospital beds and oxygen) and medications associated with the patient’s terminal diagnosis. Hamilton Hospice is committed to caring for all patients, regardless of an individual’s ability to pay.

Patients may revoke their hospice benefit at any time if they feel the need to resume more aggressive care. Patients can also re-enroll in hospice as their condition worsens.

For more information, please visit or call Hamilton Home Health at 706-226-2848 or Hamilton Hospice at 706-278-2848.

Home health and hospice are part of the continuum of services that are provided by Hamilton Health Care System, which also includes hospital care, cardiovascular services, rehabilitation and wellness, ambulatory infusion, cancer care, behavioral health, long-term care, wound care and others.



SGMC Lab Professionals Honored as Hospital Heroes 7:18 pm

South Georgia Medical Center honored its laboratory professionals as the November Hospital Heroes at its monthly Board of Directors meeting. 


According to Chief Nursing Officer Randy Smith, “Nurses and doctors all over the world are doing a phenomenal job day in and day out, but the role of lab professionals can not be overlooked as they have truly been some of the unsung heroes in the fight against COVID-19.”


It was the foresight of Laboratory leadership in obtaining necessary equipment and testing platforms early on that set the stage for appropriate treatment and triage of patients within the hospital. To date, SGMC has three in-house testing platforms and more than 40,800 samples have been collected and tested.


Additionally, the laboratory plays a critical role in the antibody testing and collection of convalescent plasma, providing blood products to help treat hospitalized patients with COVID-19.


Smith said, “Thank you for your commitment, dedication, critical-thinking and your problem solving skills. You have shown amazing resilience as you have adapted to evolutionary changes that have come from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other agencies regarding the understanding of this virus. You are all amazing and true heroes!” 


The Future of Hometown Health Care 7:24 pm

Although coronavirus has brought some aspects in life to a standstill, the Southeast Georgia Health System Brunswick Campus Master Renovation and Expansion Project has not missed a beat. “We’ve been very fortunate that coronavirus has minimally impacted the project. Years of planning were dedicated to this project, and good planning often creates good luck,” said Tripp Stephens, vice president, Support Services, Southeast Georgia Health System.


Stephens explained, “From the start, we approached this project with the goal of minimizing its impact on hospital operations. When the pandemic started, we were fortunate that construction had progressed to a point where we could continue isolating construction activities from hospital operations and minimize the number of contractors entering the hospital.”


On November 9, the Health System celebrated a major milestone in its expansion project timeline, opening the new Surgical Services rooms, main entrance and lobby, and covered visitor/patient parking areas.


As part of its Master Renovation and Expansion Project, the Health System is expanding and renovating four significant areas of the Brunswick Campus:

The projected $142.2 million budget includes construction, infrastructure, medical equipment, and information technology as well as architecture and engineering fees.


“When the pandemic began, we shifted our construction efforts to prioritize aspects of the project that impacted direct patient care and emergency services,” said Michael D. Scherneck, president and CEO, Southeast Georgia Health System. “As a result, the inpatient floor of the new tower opened in July, three months ahead of schedule. The early opening allowed access to additional beds, which was instrumental in caring for the increase of patients hospitalized due to COVID-19.”


Also completed this summer was an overhaul of the hospital’s central energy plant. The plant houses heating and cooling systems, generators and other components vital to our operations. In preparation for the additional square footage being added to the hospital, the central energy plant required equipment with more capacity and greater energy efficiency to accommodate the expansion. “Our existing equipment was approaching end of life, so the timing worked well,” Stephens said.


Two major phases of construction were completed on the Health System’s Brunswick Campus Emergency Care Center (ECC) this summer as well, including the addition of the two trauma rooms, multiple patient treatment spaces, a new main entrance and lobby, patient registration, triage spaces, a CT scanner and an ambulance entrance. Additionally, directly connected to the ECC is a new elevator tower that will improve patient flow and provide direct connectivity to Surgical Services and the inpatient floors. This feature greatly enhances patient privacy. The Brunswick Campus ECC currently treats approximately 50,000 patients annually. That number is expected to increase as the community grows. When complete, the ECC’s expansion will add approximately 12,000 square feet and 15 new treatment rooms, including two trauma rooms. Construction is being completed in phases to prevent disruptions to patient care and is scheduled for completion by the summer of 2021.


Construction of the Surgical Services rooms wrapped up in October. Sixteen spacious, state-of-the-art operating suites will house newer technologies, including robotic surgical systems. Once the new tower is online, the existing surgical services area will also be renovated to provide additional post-anesthesia and pre- and post-recovery bays for greater privacy and patient comfort. Completion for that phase of construction is slated for early 2022. “We structured this space to enhance efficiency and cost savings while streamlining care and improving technology,” Stephens said.


The renovation of the two existing patient floors in the St. Simons Tower will include 32 spacious, aesthetically pleasing, private patient rooms per floor as well as internal zones for staff, the patient and family members. Construction on that phase is scheduled to begin in early 2021 and will finish by the end of 2022, with a year of construction activities anticipated per floor.


“So many elements of this project support our ability to recruit and retain the best physicians and caregivers, expand our services to the community, and ultimately, improve patient experience and the environment,” said Stephens.


To support the 20-20 Vision Campaign, please call Southeast Georgia Health System Foundation at 912-466-3360 or visit


About Southeast Georgia Health System
Southeast Georgia Health System is a not-for-profit health system comprised of two acute care hospitals, two long term care facilities, two comprehensive Cancer Care Centers and multiple specialty care centers, including orthopaedic and spine care, joint replacement, breast care, maternity, outpatient rehabilitation, sleep management and wound care. In 2020, the Brunswick Campus was rated High Performing in COPD and Heart Failure by the U.S. News & World Report. For more information, visit




When it comes to strokes, seconds could be the difference between full recovery and long-term effects. For decades, people could rely on Northeast Georgia Medical Center (NGMC) to provide clot-busting drugs that might save their lives, but they would have to be transferred to other hospitals outside the region if other critical procedures were needed. Now – thanks to NGMC adding new technology and welcoming a new stroke expert – people can receive all the stroke care they need closer to home, saving valuable time and increasing the chances for recovery.

Sung Lee, MD, will perform critical stroke intervention procedures in NGMC Gainesville’s new Neurointerventional Lab. The lab features the latest stroke-fighting technology to perform mechanical thrombectomies, a procedure that uses small catheters and wires to remove blood clots from the brain. He is the only doctor in the northeast Georgia region performing the procedure, and the lab is the only one of its kind in the region.

“Even though we are grateful for our colleagues in Atlanta, the delay in getting to timely treatment was a real detriment to our community,” said Dr. Lee, a neurointerventional surgeon with Northeast Georgia Physicians Group (NGPG) and NGMC’s medical director of Neurointerventional Surgery. “This is a game-changer for how we not only treat strokes, but it also gives us the ability to perform other complex brain, spinal and vascular procedures. It’s the dawn of a new era of neurological care in Hall County and the surrounding region.”

In addition to providing round-the-clock care at NGMC Gainesville, Dr. Lee is also seeing patients at his NGPG practice in Gainesville. He received his medical degree from the Medical College of Georgia before completing a residency in neurology at the Mayo Clinic, a sub-specialty fellowship in neurocritical care and stroke at the University of California in San Francisco and an additional fellowship in neurointerventional radiology at Emory University. He is board certified in Neurology, Vascular Neurology and Neurocritical Care.

“We’re excited that Dr. Lee is helping lead our stroke team, as we continually push the boundaries to improve our services and make sure patients who come in with stroke symptoms receive the best and quickest treatment possible,” said Holley Adams, Stroke Program coordinator at NGMC Gainesville. “Our community is truly a safer place now that we offer this level of care.”

If you or a loved one suspect a stroke, remember the acronym BE FAST:

For more information about recognizing the signs of stroke and to learn more about stroke care at NGMC, visit To learn more about NGPG Neurointerventional Surgery, call 770-219-6520 or visit


Georgia HEART Gives Taxpayers Opportunity to Earn Tax Credit When Supporting Southeast Georgia Health System Camden Campus 3:22 pm

You have to pay taxes, but do you know what your tax dollars are used for? It’s your money, and whether you’re taxed $50 or $50,000, you should have a choice on how it’s used or who it benefits, and now you do.

Georgia is the only state in the nation which is afforded the opportunity to financially support its rural hospitals–at no cost. Enacted by the Georgia General Assembly, the HEART (Helping to Enhance Access to Rural Treatment) rural hospital tax credit program allows a 100% state tax credit for individuals, married couples and corporations who redirect their tax liability to a designated rural hospital. Lawmakers enacted the HEART tax credit program to encourage taxpayers throughout Georgia to learn more about the financial and other challenges rural hospitals face and to contribute to improve their financial condition and patient offerings.


In other words, you can choose to help improve health care in your community by redirecting your state tax to the Southeast Georgia Health System Camden Campus through the Georgia HEART program.


Southeastern Bank recently took advantage of the HEART program, and graciously contributed $100,000 to the Health System’s Camden Campus.


“Southeastern Bank is proud to support the Southeast Georgia Health System Camden Campus through the rural hospital tax credit program,” said Con Holland, President and CEO of Southeastern Bank. “Our donation and others like it provide the means for rural hospitals to expand services, specialties and treatments so that one day patients in rural communities can receive all the care they need in hometown hospitals like the Camden Campus. When patients can get the skilled care they need locally, we all benefit from improved quality of life, economic growth and peace of mind. This is of particular interest to us because many of our customers and employees live in the rural markets we serve through our network of bank offices in southeast Georgia and northeast Florida.”


In 2019, the Health System used its HEART contributions to add 3D Mammography to the Camden Campus. Contributions received in 2020 have been applied towards the new Wound Care Center and ROSA, robotic surgical technology used for knee replacements.


Currently, 58 rural hospitals are eligible to receive HEART tax credit-eligible contributions from individuals and businesses across the state. Ameris Bank has donated $2,000,000 in financial support to 19 rural hospitals located throughout the bank’s footprint in Georgia, including $300,000 to the Southeast Georgia Health System Camden Campus.


“Contributions through the Georgia HEART program furthers our ability to provide quality health care for our community and the families we serve,” said Michael D. Scherneck, president and CEO, Southeast Georgia Health System. “It doesn’t matter how little the contribution is, it will truly make a difference by helping us better serve our patients, and improving the quality of life for our entire service area.”


But the 2020 opportunity will soon end. Applications must be submitted and approved by the Georgia Department of Revenue and tax liability contributions completed by December 31, 2020.


Follow these easy steps to sign up for your 100% tax credit:



Your contribution will increase Southeast Georgia Health System’s funding and ability to add new services, programs and technology to the Camden Campus.


For more information about the Georgia HEART rural hospital tax credit program, please visit or


About Southeast Georgia Health System
Southeast Georgia Health System is a not-for-profit health system comprised of two acute care hospitals, two long term care facilities, two comprehensive Cancer Care Centers and multiple specialty care centers, including orthopedic and spine care, joint replacement, breast care, maternity, outpatient rehabilitation, sleep management and wound care. The Brunswick Campus Cancer Care Center is accredited by the American College of Surgeons Commission on Cancer and offers the only CyberKnife® M6 with MLC technology in Georgia. Additionally, the Southeast Georgia Physician Associates medical group includes more than 140 providers working in 20 different medical specialties at more than 50 locations. The Health System is part of Coastal Community Health, a regional affiliation between Baptist Health and Southeast Georgia Health System forming a highly integrated hospital network focused on significant initiatives designed to enhance the quality and value of care provided to our contiguous communities. In 2020, the Brunswick Campus was rated High Performing in COPD and Heart Failure by the U.S. News & World Report. For more information, visit



Celebrate a COVID Safe Halloween 12:46 pm

Halloween is traditionally a fun night for children across the U.S., but the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has left parents wondering if they should celebrate this year, and if so, how to celebrate safely. Pediatricians from Beverly Knight Olson Children’s Hospital, Navicent Health offer tips to celebrate a COVID Safe Halloween.

“It’s important to create as much normalcy for children as possible, while also taking steps to protect them from COVID-19. We encourage people to follow the guidelines set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and get creative in order to celebrate safely,” said Edward Clark, MD, Medical Director of BKO.

Pediatricians from BKO recommend the following tips to prevent the spread of COVID-19 this Halloween:

“Be sure to wear a cloth mask that covers the nose and mouth to protect yourself and others from COVID-19. A standard Halloween costume mask is not a substitute for a cloth mask, and you should not wear a Halloween costume mask over a cloth mask – this can make breathing very difficult.  Instead, have fun incorporating a cloth mask into your costume! For example, dress up as a ninja or a healthcare worker,” said Katherine Duncan, MD, Director of Pediatric Advocacy and Global Health at BKO.

Pediatricians at BKO also ask parents and guardians to remember the general Halloween safety tips that have applied in year’s past and remain applicable this year. Those safety measures include the following:

Those who may not feel comfortable trick-or-treating this year do not have to miss out on the festivities and fun. Pediatricians at BKO suggest the following trick-or-treat alternatives:

“Although we need to make adjustments to the way we celebrate this year, there are still plenty of opportunities to have a fun and safe holiday,” said Dr. Clark.

About Navicent Health
Navicent Health, the leading provider of healthcare in central and south Georgia, is committed to its mission of elevating health and wellbeing through compassionate care. Providing more than 1,000 beds and offering care in 53 specialties at more than 50 facilities throughout the region, Navicent Health provides care for healthcare consumers’ through an academic medical center; community, pediatric and rehabilitation hospitals; urgent care centers; physician practices; diagnostic centers; home health; hospice and palliative care; and a life plan community. Navicent Health is dedicated to enhancing health and wellness for individuals throughout the region through nationally recognized quality care, community health initiatives and collaborative partnerships. For more information, please visit




St. Mary’s providing free, fresh food to those in need 7:15 pm

This October, St. Mary’s Hospital in Athens and St. Mary’s Sacred Heart Hospital in Lavonia are providing free, fresh food to people in need in our community.


Under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced that the Farmers to Families Food Box Program will distribute up to $3 billion worth of fresh produce, dairy, and meat products to families in need. USDA identified eligible counties within each state, and two St. Mary’s hospitals are located in counties eligible to receive food boxes: St. Mary’s Hospital in Clarke County and Sacred Heart Hospital in Franklin County.


St. Mary’s is collaborating in this special community event with Metz Culinary Management, the system’s regional food service vendor, and with Sysco Atlanta. Every food box is 30-40 pounds of fresh fruit, vegetables, dairy, meat and eggs.


Each hospital has approximately 1,250 food boxes to distribute to families in need of food on a first-come, first-served basis. No documentation, identification or paperwork is needed to receive the food box.


St. Mary’s Health Care System Farmers-to-Families dates


For more information, please contact Tamara Bourda, Regional Vice President, Community Health and Well-Being, at


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Northeast Georgia Medical Center (NGMC) is the only hospital in Georgia to receive one of the highest levels of recognition for using technology to improve healthcare quality and cost.

The College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME) included NGMC on its annual list of Healthcare’s Most Wired for 2020. This is the seventh year NGMC has made the list, and it’s the first year it received Level 9 certification alongside healthcare leaders like Mayo Clinic, Johns Hopkins and UCLA Health.

“While NGMC is always honored to be included on the Most Wired list, this year’s recognition is particularly meaningful,” says Chris Paravate, Northeast Georgia Health System’s Chief Information Officer. “Technology has played a critical role in helping us rapidly transform care delivery as we adapted to the changing needs of our community during the COVID-19 pandemic.” 

The Most Wired program conducts an annual survey to assess how effectively healthcare organizations apply information technologies into their clinical and business programs to improve patient safety and outcomes in their communities. Level 9 organizations have deployed advanced technologies like population health/cost-of-care analytics, tools to efficiently share data across different electronic health records, patient portals to help people access their health information – and use them to improve clinical outcomes and efficiency.

“Having a solid technology foundation has allowed us to expand our services in 2020 to offer video visits, improved ways to find our physicians online, improved consults between different hospitals and more,” says Paravate. “We have ambitious plans to keep improving those tools and finding more ways to use technology to help improve our community’s health in 2021.”

Learn more about the 2020 Most Wired Survey at



Since 1951, Northeast Georgia Medical Center (NGMC) has been on a mission of improving the health of our community in all we do. With hospitals located in Gainesville, Braselton, Winder and Dahlonega, the four NGMC campuses have a total of more than 700 beds and more than 1,100 medical staff members representing more than 50 specialties. NGMC is part of Northeast Georgia Health System, a non-profit that cares for more than 1 million people across more than 18 counties. Learn more at


Gov. Kemp Tours Tanner Medical Center/Carrollton 1:14 pm

Thanks front-line healthcare workers, learns about open heart expansion


Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp was in Carrollton Wednesday, paying a visit to Tanner Medical Center/Carrollton to learn more about how community hospitals have responded to the COVID-19 pandemic and to talk to the healthcare workers on the front lines of the pandemic.


“COVID-19 has presented unprecedented challenges across our state,” Gov. Kemp told a multidisciplinary group of healthcare workers in the intensive care unit at Tanner Medical Center/Carrollton — where many of the region’s most acutely ill COVID-19 patients received care. “It’s something we’ve all been through, but you’ve been on the front lines. Thank you for all you’ve done.”


The governor was escorted into the ICU by a group of physicians and senior leadership representatives who have been at the forefront of the health system’s COVID-19 response.


“Let’s meet some of our heroes,” said Tanner President and CEO Loy Howard, wrapping an arm around ICU nurse manager Nancy Harris, CCRN.


On the unit, Gov. Kemp met with a group of nurses, environmental services staff, respiratory therapists, palliative care nurses, pharmacists and others, hearing their concerns on staffing, taking precautions to stop the spread of the virus and supply shortages.


He also heard from staff who faced challenges beyond the in-hospital challenges of the pandemic, including those who stayed away from home for months at a time to prevent bringing the virus into their house and those facing homeschooling children while fighting on the front lines of the virus.


“I have three daughters myself,” said Gov. Kemp. “There’s going to be a generational effect like we’ll never know.”


The governor was led through the hospital by several physicians who have been deeply involved in battling the pandemic while continuing to push ahead with expanding healthcare services in the region.


“Our whole community responded,” said Laura Larson, MD, an infectious disease specialist and medical director of infection prevention for Tanner. “I came into a room with a COVID-19 patient wearing one of our reusable green gowns. The lady told me, ‘I made that gown. We prayed over every one of those before we sent them out.’ And she recovered; she did well.”


On the ICU, the governor also saw several new rooms that were added during the pandemic and heard about how the hospital had converted other rooms to negative pressure, enabling the facility to safely care for COVID-19 patients without the risk of spreading the virus throughout the hospital.


“We really appreciate the Department of Community Health for helping hospitals open bed capacity,” said Howard. “That’s been vital to helping hospitals like ours expand the inpatient capacity we needed to handle a surge in patients.”


The governor also toured the hospital’s surgical services unit, which was largely shuttered during the pandemic but has returned to life the past several months.


Alyssa Howard, MD, an anesthesiologist and Tanner’s chief of staff, said locking down the surgical services unit was concerning but necessary.


“We knew some folks could wait one month,” Dr. Howard said, “but not two.”


Testing, said Dr. Howard, was imperative to reopening healthcare services — especially testing that offered faster results.


“If we test on a Thursday, and they go to the beach over the weekend and have a procedure scheduled for Tuesday, that doesn’t work,” Dr. Howard said. “We need to know if they could be sick right before the procedure. Having a faster result is critical.”


The governor also learned more about Tanner’s plans to expand open-heart surgical care to west Georgia — the most populous part of Georgia without an open-heart program.


In recent years, Tanner has expanded lifesaving interventional cardiology services — like angioplasty and stenting — from Carrollton to Villa Rica and established accredited chest pain centers in both cities.


Late last year, the health system earned state approval to develop an open-heart surgery program at Tanner Medical Center/Carrollton.


Shazib Khawaja, MD, medical director of interventional cardiology at Tanner, explained to the governor how essential open-heart surgical care was to opening a comprehensive heart care program in the region.


“Lately, COVID-19 has taken center stage, but we’re pushing forward,” said Christopher Arant, MD, also an interventional cardiologist and a member of Tanner’s board of directors. “People tell us that they don’t want to go to Atlanta for these services. It’s in the interest of the community to stay local.”


“This is the right time for us,” said Tanner CEO Howard. “Heart disease is the leading cause of death in our region; comprehensive heart care will save lives.”


More information on Tanner’s services and news can be found at



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