County opens Tate Fire Station with Ribbon Cutting

Community, News

 

JASPER, Ga. – Pickens saw celebrations and attendance from many officials as all three members of the Pickens County Board of Commissioners met to cut the ribbon on the new Tate Fire Station.

The new facility is the second-largest fire station in Pickens County now that it is open and hosts larger drive-through bay doors to accommodate future plans for equipment and hosts the fully drive-through bay area to prevent the larger trucks from needing to back out.

Pickens Fire Chief Sloan Elrod said, “I want to thank all the citizens that voted on SPLOST, without SPLOST this would be very tough to be in this building, to have our new trucks.”

Several officials from across the county were also in attendance including representatives from the Pickens Board of Education, Cherokee Fire Fighters, the Copeland family who sold the land to the county for the station, the Pickens Sheriff Office, and Jasper Fire Department among others.

With those wider bay doors on the new fire station, Pickens Commission Chairman Rob Jones said this is part of a direction towards housing a Quint. A quint is a multi-use fire truck that serves multiple purposes based on needs including pump, water tank, fire hose, aerial device, and ground ladders.

Jones said that the board is looking at better and bigger equipment for the community. Part of the opening of this station and the continuing goal that Jones noted is lowering the ISO Rating. This insurance rating, as noted in previous fire station openings and other counties, affects the insurance costs.

Fire Chief Sloan Elrod left and Commission Chairman Rob Jones speak at Fire Station 2 ribbon cutting in Tate Fire Station

Fire Chief Sloan Elrod, left, and Commission Chairman Rob Jones, right, speak at the Fire Station 2 ribbon-cutting in Tate on January 28, 2020.

With Tate’s upgrade into the new station, Jones said the county’s rating is down to a four. Continuing along with past years planning to increase the fire department and lower the rating.

Additionally, the new station will also see the change to constantly hosting three paid firefighters every day according to Elrod. Jones echoed this saying they are still relying on volunteers in the county and want to continue utilizing them even though they will constantly have three on staff in Tate at Fire Station 2.

Piedmont announces Judy Shaw Memorial Scholarship

Community
Piedmont Mountainside

JASPER, Ga. – Piedmont Mountainside Hospital has recently revealed details on a new scholarship in honor of one of their own.

Judy Shaw passed away in July of 2019, a wife and mother of two, Shaw worked for Piedmont Mountainside. According to her obituary, “Judy spent her life caring for others. As a nurse at Pickens General Hospital and then Piedmont Mountainside Hospital, as well as a hospice nurse for Hospice Compassus, she was one of those nurses who saw need and met it, saw pain and relieved it, who gave care and concern far beyond her job description.”

The Judy Shaw Scholarship Fund will provide support to students enrolled in nursing programs. However, the new scholarship is in early stages of development according to Senior Communications Specialist Stacy Fentress. 

“Judy exemplified nursing in so many ways and truly spent her life caring for others,” said Jamie Quinn, Past-President and Scholarship Chairman for Piedmont Mountainside’s Auxiliary. “Having a scholarship in her honor that will contribute to the education of future nurses is a fitting tribute.”

“Judy will forever be remembered as a kind, compassionate and gentle nurse who had a true love for people,” said Denise Ray, CEO of Piedmont Mountainside. “She was routinely recognized for going above and beyond in her work and for doing all she could to help her patients and their families.”

Specific details such as whether the scholarship will be available to students in nursing school statewide or limited to local students, and details about the type of help the scholarship will provide to students will definitely be an important part of the discussion coming to the development process.

Piedmont Hospitals Support National Drug Take Back Day

News
Piedmont Mountainside
PRESS RELEASE FROM PIEDMONT MOUNTAINSIDE

Jasper, Ga. (April 16, 2019) – From 1999 to 2010, opioid-related deaths in Georgia increased by 500 percent. In 2016, there were close to 1,000 deaths involving opioids in the state and those numbers are continuing to increase. Facing those statistics and knowing that all healthcare systems need to play a role in attempting to stem this epidemic, Piedmont Healthcare is examining its pain management policies and connecting its hospitals with stakeholders in the community in an effort to address this crisis.

National Drug Take Back Day, which is sponsored by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), is Saturday, April 27, and will feature activities between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Local law enforcement agencies will provide a safe, convenient and responsible way to dispose of unused or expired prescription drugs. The majority of teenagers abusing prescription drugs get them from the home medicine cabinet. Using pharmaceutical drugs without a prescription or a doctor’s supervision can lead to accidental poisoning, overdose and abuse.

“One of the most important things we can do as individuals, especially as we try to protect our families and children, is to dispose of unused, unwanted, and expired prescription drugs,” said Piedmont Mountainside CEO Denise Ray. “That’s why we’re supporting the efforts of our local public safety departments and letting our employees know about National Drug Take Back Day and what they can do on a personal level.”

In 2018, Take Back Day brought in more than 900,000 pounds of unused or expired prescription medication. Disposing of those drugs safely keeps them off the streets and protects the environment as well. On its website for Take Back Day, the DEA has a collection site locator that allows individuals to find the closest take back sites to where they live: https://takebackday.dea.gov/.

Throughout its 11 hospitals, Piedmont will be coordinating with various local law enforcement and public health agencies on Take Back Day.

From a system level, Piedmont, the largest healthcare provider in Georgia, convened an Opioids Task Force in 2018 and is seeking to provide patients with optimal pain management while preventing the potential for opioid abuse. One of the key tenets to Piedmont’s plan is to increase education and awareness among both patients and staff. There are times when the use of opioids is appropriate and necessary, but Piedmont’s new protocols, created by its physician leaders in consultation with clinical staff, will consider non-opioids and alternate pain management modalities such as topical therapy, local injections, massage, physical therapy and more. Piedmont will also focus on establishing system-wide standardization and coordination of prescribing protocols in key risk areas.

“It is important to reduce the stigma around opioid addiction,” said Ray. “Unfortunately this is a sweeping epidemic, one that is effecting people across the country, regardless of age, gender or ethnicity. No one person, organization, city or state can tackle it alone, but Piedmont Mountainside is proud to join our sister hospitals and play a role alongside our patients and partners in the community.”

Learn more about Piedmont at piedmont.org

Deputy dies in Pickens training facility

News

 

Deputy Sheriff II Spencer Englett

Deputy Sheriff II Spencer Englett

(Photo from Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office Social Media)

 

JASPER, Ga. – Two families mourn today after the sudden death of Deputy Sheriff II Spencer Englett, 29, during training in Pickens County.

Englett was recently married and had just begun his first day of training in Pickens, but served as a deputy of Forsyth County. The training program was a part of the Georgia Public Safety Training Center-Pickens Law Enforcement Academy where Englett was with three other Deputies from Forsyth.

According to an official release from Forsyth County Sheriff Ron Freeman, “Spencer suffered a traumatic medical event during training and collapsed. Medical personnel and first responders on scene, as well as his fellow Forsyth County Deputies, immediately administered aid to Deputy Englett.”

Forsyth County Sheriff Ron H. Freeman

Forsyth County Sheriff Ron H. Freeman

Englett was transported to Piedmont Mountainside Hospital for what Freeman called “heroic efforts” in his care. However, Englett was unable to be revived.

Sheriff’s Offices across North Georgia and the state are offering up their condolences and mourning as his “family in blue” alongside his wife and family at home.

Englett had served with Forsyth County since May 2017 and Baldwin County Sheriff’s Office before that. Freeman stated, “Deputy Englett served Forsyth County with distinction and honor and remains well respected by his peers.”

 

Piedmont Brings New, Unique Support Program to its Local Hospitals

News
Piedmont Mountainside
Public Release by: Piedmont Healthcare

Atlanta, Ga. (March 13, 2019) – Piedmont Healthcare now offers Rachel’s Gift, a non-profit program that provides support and guidance services to families who have suffered the loss of an infant, at 10 of its hospital locations.

Started in 2008, Rachel’s Gift partners with hospitals to assist families through the initial phase of infant loss. In coordination with the hospital’s labor and delivery, neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) and emergency department staff, Rachel’s Gift trains on grief assistance and companioning patients through infant loss.

“Rachel’s Gift is a very special program, and we’re proud to be able to train our staff to offer the services that it provides,” said Carolene Gaster, Clinical Manager of Labor and Delivery at Piedmont Mountainside Hospital. “The program helps our local hospitals provide a healthy environment to begin the grieving process for families, while also providing lifetime keepsakes of their child. It’s a really special program.”

With Rachel’s Gift, hospital staff receives regular training written by licensed professional counselors as well as families who have experienced infant loss, educating them in the grief process. The program has training specific to NICU services, as well as services in the emergency department, helping families experiencing sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), an unexpected death that usually occurs during sleep, and families with early-term infant loss who visit the emergency room.

“It equips hospital staff with an outline to help families face the grief,” said Gaster. “Thanks to the program, these families also have access to a 24-hour hotline to call when they’re in need of assistance after they leave our care.”

Rachel’s Gift also gives families a keepsakes of their child, and families receive a package that includes items such as clay kits to collect hands and footprints of their child, a special album, a book to guide them in grieving, and information about businesses in their local community that provide free counseling and other support services that these families may need.

“It’s amazing to see our program being utilized throughout the Piedmont Healthcare system,” said Lori Beth Blaney, director of Rachel’s Gift. “Our nationally accredited training course equips staff with the tools and training to deliver compassionate patient care, while also providing a gift that gives these families special keepsakes for a lifetime reminder and a physical reminder of their child.”

Piedmont’s hospitals comprise 10 of the 27 hospitals in Georgia that offer Rachel’s Gift’s free services, and the program is available at Piedmont Atlanta, Piedmont Athens Regional, Piedmont Columbus Regional Midtown, Piedmont Fayette, Piedmont Henry, Piedmont Mountainside, Piedmont Newnan, Piedmont Newton, Piedmont Rockdale and Piedmont Walton hospitals.

For more information about maternity services at Piedmont Healthcare, visit piedmont.org.

Piedmont Mountainside named one of the Nation’s Top 100 Hospitals

News
Piedmont Mountainside

Jasper, Ga. (March 11, 2019) — Piedmont Mountainside Hospital has been named one of the nation’s 100 Top Hospitals by IBM Watson Health. The study spotlights the top-performing hospitals in the U.S. based on a balanced scorecard of publicly available clinical, operational and patient satisfaction metrics and data.

“At Piedmont Mountainside, we share a commitment to providing unsurpassed medical care to all who need our services,” said hospital CEO Denise Ray. “We take our promise of making a positive difference in every life we touch seriously, and that’s why we’re so proud to be recognized as a Top 100 Hospital this year.”

Overall, the IBM Watson Health™ 100 Top Hospitals study found that the top-performing hospitals outperformed non-winning peer group hospitals in a variety of performance measures, including higher survival rates, fewer complications and infections, shorter length of stay, shorter emergency department wait times, lower inpatient expenses, higher overall profit margins and higher patient satisfaction.

Based on the results of this year’s study, Watson Health extrapolates that if all Medicare inpatients received the same level of care as those treated in the award-winning facilities:

  • More than 103,000 additional lives could be saved;
  • More than 38,000 additional patients could be complication-free;
  • More than $8.2 billion in inpatient costs could be saved; and
  • Approximately 155,000 fewer discharged patients would be readmitted within 30 days.

“At a time when research shows that the U.S. spends nearly twice as much on healthcare as other high-income countries, yet still has poorer population health outcomes , the 100 Top Hospitals are bucking the trend by delivering consistently better care at a lower cost,” said Ekta Punwani, 100 Top Hospitals® program leader at IBM Watson Health. “The hospitals on this list represent the current vanguard in value-based care and we applaud their commitment to quality.”

The Watson Health 100 Top Hospitals® study uses independent and objective research to analyze hospital and health system performance in 10 clinical and operational areas addressing: risk-adjusted inpatient mortality index, risk-adjusted complications index, mean healthcare-associated infection index, mean 30-day risk-adjusted mortality rate, mean 30-day risk-adjusted readmission rate, severity-adjusted length of stay, mean emergency department throughput, case mix- and wage-adjusted inpatient expense per discharge, adjusted operating profit margin, and HCAHPS score (patient rating of overall hospital performance). The study has been conducted annually since 1993.

For more information, visit www.100tophospitals.com.

About Piedmont Mountainside Hospital

Piedmont Mountainside Hospital – a 52-bed hospital, located in the foothills of the North Georgia Mountains – dedicates itself to delivering unsurpassed medical care to the residents of Pickens. Gilmer and North Cherokee Counties and surrounding communities. We provide a range of services from cardiac rehabilitation and imaging to orthopedic services to cardiac catheterization and general surgery. Piedmont Mountainside offers intensive care, 24-hour emergency services with 18 beds and a fast track area.

At Piedmont Mountainside, we take pride in providing outstanding care and our record of accomplishment speaks for itself. In the past few years, Piedmont Mountainside has consistently ranked in the top five Atlanta hospitals in patient experience as well as received top marks for our commitment to patient safety by Leapfrog 7 consecutive times. Other awards received are the Press Ganey Partner of Choice Award, Best Place to Practice Award, 2011 Small Hospital of the Year, AJC’s 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019 Top Workplace, the Women’s Choice Award for Best in Obstetrics and Best in Patient Safety, and Business of the Year by the Gilmer Co. Chamber.

About IBM Watson Health

Watson Health is a business unit of IBM that is dedicated to the development and implementation of cognitive and data-driven technologies to advance health. Watson Health technologies are tackling a wide range of the world’s biggest health care challenges, including cancer, diabetes, drug discovery and more.

Substance at vape shop hospitalizes five

News
Photos courtesy of the Pickens County Sheriff's Office

Jasper, Ga – Authorities have met a major incident as they executed a search warrant at the local A1 Smoke Shop in Jasper, Georgia.

During the execution of the search warrant today, September 14, members of the Drug Task Force, Pickens Sheriff’s Office, and Jasper City Police were exposed to an unidentified substance that immediately brought down one detective. Others also became exposed in attempts to help treat the detective. According to an official release by Sgt. Jody Weaver, Administrative Services Division of the Pickens Sheriff’s Office, “As of this release, two Detectives, a DTF Agent and two EMS personnel are being treated now for symptoms.”

Photos courtesy of the Pickens County Sheriff's Office

Photos courtesy of the Pickens County Sheriff’s Office

Unconfirmed reports indicate the substance may have been made airborne during the search, but reports at this time indicate the exposure is not life-threatening.

According to their official release, “The Cherokee County Hazardous Materials Team has dispatched to the scene to assist, along with all surrounding public safety agencies including the Pickens Fire & EMS and City of Jasper Fire.”

Additionally, authorities have closed businesses in close proximity to the location and evacuated citizens from the area for safety.

With Haz-Mat teams investigating the substances, authorities are declining to release certain details of the active investigation, but indicate that they will be releasing more information about the incident later.

With the recent rise of vaping devices being used to inhale drugs ranging from Methamphetamines to THC Oil to Synthetic Marijuana, it is likely this warrant could be part of an official response to the trend in our schools, though no official statement identifies why they were executing a search warrant. The District Attorney’s office is currently undertaking a series of assemblies at the middle and high schools of Pickens, Fannin, and Gilmer.

At this point, it is actually quite common to find controlled substances in vape devices across America, especially in schools as reports continue to flood the media about students falling unconscious or having severe reactions, even seizures because of what they may or may not know they are inhaling.

See the full media release below:

“Pickens County law enforcement have encountered a suspected unknown powder substance during execution of a search warrant – Deputies and other public safety adversely affected.”

On the morning of Friday, September 14, 2018, the Drug Task Force, along with the Pickens Sheriff’s Office and the City of Jasper Police Department executed a search warrant at the A-1 Smoke Shop located at 684 West Church Street in Jasper, Georgia. During the search of the premises, a Detective with the Pickens Sheriff’s Office came in contact with an unknown substance which immediately resulted in the Detective experiencing adverse health conditions and symptoms. The affected Detective was transported to the local hospital for immediate treatment. Public safety personnel who were exposed while treating the affected Detective also began experiencing similar reactions. As of this release, two Detectives, a DTF Agent and two EMS personnel are being treated now for symptoms.

The Cherokee County Hazardous Materials Team has dispatched to the scene to assist, along with all surrounding public safety agencies including the Pickens Fire & EMS and City of Jasper Fire. Businesses in close proximity to the location have been evacuated as a safety precaution, and Haz-Mat teams are preparing to enter the premises to thoroughly investigate and identify the cause of the health issues with our public safety personnel.

As this is an active investigation, more information will be provided as it becomes available.

Veteran Affairs Clinic In The Works

Community, News

Jasper, GA – A Veterans Affairs (VA) Clinic is coming to East Church Street next to Save-A-Lot Pickens County. It is expected to serve 6,000 veterans a year and is said to open in 2018.
The Atlanta VA Health Care System has entered into a lease agreement with AFTK, LLC that will bring the clinic to Pickens.

The Veterans Health Administration is the largest integrated health care system in the United States, providing care at 1,245 health care facilities, including 170 VA Medical Centers, and 1,065 outpatient sites of care.

VA Clinic’s provide a wide range of services including critical care, mental health, orthopedics, pharmacy, radiology, and physical therapy. In addition, most of the centers offer other medical and surgical specialty services.

Greg Kendall, Atlanta VA Medical Center public affairs officer stated, the Pickens County clinic will provide primary care and mental health services to veterans in Pickens, Dawson, Cherokee, Gilmer, Lumpkin and surrounding counties.

Fetch Your News is a hyper local news outlet that covers Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, Union, Towns and Murray counties as well as Cherokee County in N.C. If you would like to follow up-to-date local events in any of those counties, please visit us at FetchYourNews.com

Medical Marijuana Pt.2 7/15/16

GMFTO

Part Two of the GMFTO series on Medical Marijuana, Cannabis Oil, and the effects for health treatment in our nation.

Medical Marijuana 6/24/16

GMFTO

A special segment on Medical Marijuana. BKP  meets Rick and Melisa Searcy whose daughter, Angel Searcy, has Cerebral Palsy and Microcephaly. BKP also talks legislation with Dale Jackson from Hope United.

Citizens React to Possible Closing of North Georgia Medical Center

News

A bomb is exactly what citizens are calling this information that they say came out of nowhere. With continuing questions of what this means to Gilmer County, FYN sat down with Executive Director of the Greater Gilmer JDA (Joint Development Authority), Chuck Scragg in an interview Wednesday.

As DirectoScraggr Scragg said, the impact of that information and the potential loss to Gilmer County could be quite substantial as losing a $31,000,000 business,  which the hospital as a whole contributes to the county, would be a large impediment on the economy, stating, “in 2006 there were 9,035 jobs in Gilmer County, right now, today, there are 7,200 jobs.” Losing a business is losing jobs.

In a county that is still not recovering from the recession, it will be much harder to entice companies to join and move into Gilmer county with no inpatient care services. Director Scragg said when people visit for business scouting, after seeing potential sites, there are always three things they ask to see in the county; Schools, Downtown Area, and Healthcare Facilities.

While FYN has learned of a non-disclosure agreement covering the leasing or closing of the Medical Center, FYN has continued requesting comments from Piedmont Mountainside about the Transition and Services they would provide for Gilmer County considering there is a deadline of January 27 to contest the issue and the filing of a Request for Determination.

Citizens and employees of the Medical Center both are commenting and responding to this information saying “there are employees there that depend on their job to support their family” and many saying this is the first they have heard of the possible closing. With this being the first information they have received, many are still questioning why they were not informed earlier with the deadline only a week away?

House Speaker David Ralston’s office also released the following statement concerning the hospital via Kaleb McMichen, Spokesman.

Under President Obama’s administration, actions at the federal level have driven up the costs of healthcare including deductibles and premiums of commercial health insurance policies as well as the state’s portion of Medicaid spending.  Unfortunately, many hospitals and doctors across Georgia, particularly those in rural areas, are struggling to cope with these changing financial realities.

As recently as last week, Speaker Ralston has said time and again that maintaining access to high-quality healthcare for Georgia’s citizens is a priority. He remains engaged with stakeholders and is working with them to find the best of available solutions to preserve access to hospital care in Gilmer County.

According to Director Scragg, the Greater Gilmer JDA will be having a Special Called Meeting on Monday morning at 9:00am at the Gilmer Chamber. We at FYN have also received the Agenda for this meeting, one of the major items on the agenda being ‘Review & Action on Hospital DET.’ This is an open meeting for citizens to sit in to listen and participate in a Citizens Wishing to Speak Section.

Listen to the full interview with Executive Director Chuck Scragg below:

 

 

 

 

 

North Georgia Medical Closing? Piedmont Offering Emergency Care

News

Sunlink Inc. / Southern Health Corp. of Ellijay may soon be closing the North Georgia Medical Center located in Ellijay.

Piedmont Mountainside Hospital Inc. has made an offer for a five year lease for the Emergency Room Care area of the hospital. The two are awaiting approval from the State Department of Community Health that is due by January 28th.

In a document obtained by FetchYourNews, Piedmont has submitted a Georgia Certificate of Need, Request for Determination. In the document, Piedmont Mountainside stated:

Piedmont Mountainside Hospital, Inc. (“Piedmont Mountainside”) proposes pursuant to this Determination to acquire existing equipment and supplies, and lease approximately 11, 000 square feet of space at North Georgia Medical Center, located at 1362 South Main Street, Ellijay, GA. As a result of such acquisition and long term Lease, Piedmont Mountainside proposes to offer outpatient emergency department services at the current location of the Emergency Department (” ED”) of North Georgia Medical Center (” NGMC”). The present owner of NGMC, Southern Health Corporation of Ellijay (” SHC”)— a subsidiary of Sunlink Healthcare— intends to close North Georgia Medical Center and cease offering all short stay hospital services, including emergency services, in that facility. Such a closure will leave a troubling gap in the provision of emergency healthcare services to the rural community in Gilmer County.

This Request for Determination could be contested, but if it is not contested and is approved by the state, it is not clear when the inpatient side of the hospital will close and Piedmont Mountainside will take over the emergency room.

FYN spoke with North Georgia Medical Center Chief Executive Officer Earl Whiteley about the possible closing of the hospital. Whiteley said that although the hospital would no longer have inpatient care the positive was that the community would still have emergency care services. If a person came in the emergency room and had to be admitted, the patient would then be moved to a hospital of their choice.

Many of these patients, however, are expected to travel to Piedmont Mountainside in Pickens County. Whiteley went on to tell us that Sunlink Inc. would continue to operate the nursing home and no changes should be expected there. Additionally, the Piedmont campus on Industrial Dr will be in the lease as well and is expected to continue operation.

To further understand the impact of this to Gilmer County, FYN spoke with Executive Director Chuck Scragg of the Greater Gilmer JDA who said

The UGA study said the Hospital and nursing home has a yearly $31 million dollar economic impact to Gilmer County.  We will loose very high paying jobs here, as well as other sources of revenue as people will go to Mountainside Piedmont in Jasper for hospitalization.  This change will take effect unless we contest it.  We only have until January 27th to do so.

Whiteley indicated in the interview that rural hospitals are ‘under the gun’ with this making six rural hospitals to close in Georgia in the last two years. Currently the hospital employs 332 employees throughout all campuses.

While FYN has not learned of any final operating days yet, we are continuing to research this project as it develops and will update you as information becomes available. You can also read, in its entirety, the Request for Determination.

When we asked about details concerning the purchase price that Piedmont was paying the hospital, Whiteley referred us to Bob Thornton of Sunlink inc. for details on the transaction. FYN has reached out to Thornton and has not heard back from him at the time of this article.

FYN has also reached out to Georgia Speaker of the House David Ralston for a comment about a hospital in his district possibly closing. FYN has also reached out to Piedmont Mountainside Hospital in Jasper for a comment concerning the transition and what citizens can expect. We currently await responses from both.

At this time, we understand the Request had also been sent to the County Commissioners and both City Mayors.

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