Expansions viewed, accomplishments discussed at Union General board meeting

Business, News

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.

Chief Executive Officer Lewis Kelley, left, and other hospital administrators get a preview of the x-ray room at Union General Hospital’s new orthopedic wing.

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.

Officials and administrators from Union General Hospital preview a new medical office building located on Deep South Farm Road just down from the main hospital facility in Blairsville.

“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.”


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Jason Beck

Born in Merrillville, Indiana, raised in Cleveland, Tennessee, and currently resides in Copperhill, Tennessee. Graduated from Bradley Central High School in 1996 and attended the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, eventually earning a B.A. and M.A. in English. Hobbies include hiking, camping and fly-fishing. Interests include baseball, hockey and cliff jumping.

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