Piedmont Hospitals Support National Drug Take Back Day

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


Home Invasion Attempt Lands Suspect in Hospital


Gilmer County, GA

Preliminary report in regarding a domestic home invasion which occurred on the evening of Tuesday, November 6th.  Gilmer County Sheriff’s office assisted by Ellijay Police Department responded to a domestic related, attempted home invasion in the western portion of Gilmer County.

Officers approaching the scene were met with an armed suspect. Multiple shots were fired. The suspect has been transported to an area hospital. No officers were injured.  The GBI is conducting an investigation at the request of the Sheriff’s office.

FetchYourNews will update as additional details become available.


House fire injures one and destroys home


ELLIJAY, Ga – A fire broke out at 1975 Old Flat Branch Road yesterday, Dec. 6.

According to Public Safety Director Tony Pritchett, the fire had reached advanced stages when 911 was contacted and response arrived on scene. While residents fled the fire, one female was transported for treatment of smoke inhalation and is still hospitalized.

Having already increased in size and threat, fire fighters immediately began containing the blaze in efforts to prevent further spread through the woods and into other homes. However, damage to the house was already spreading and the structure was consumed as well as part of the woods around the house.

At this time the area is completely extinguished, Pritchett stated the workers on scene have cleared any hot spots in the area so no flare ups will occur. However, an investigation is ongoing into the incident as he states they have not ascertained the cause at this time.


Behind the Doors at Piedmont’s Emergency Department


With Piedmont’s recent ribbon cutting ceremony, FYN delved behind the scenes to take a closer look at some of Piedmont’s equipment and changes to the facilities as they move closer to opening their doors to the public.

ParisDuring their Ribbon Cutting, Piedmont was welcomed into Gilmer County by Commission Chairman Charlie Paris stating, “We’re very thankful to have an ER coming into Gilmer County. In addition to health care considerations, there are a lot of cost savings that will apply…”

One of the biggest upgrades that Piedmont Mountainside CEO, Denise Ray mentioned during the ceremony was a 64-slice CT Scanner with a Double Injector function. This device replaces an CT Scanolder 16-slice scanner allowing for far better detail in the scans. The Double Injector is used during things like PE (Pulmonary Embolism) Studies. Nestor walked us through the aid this provides as the contrast dye is injected into patients needs to be immediately flushed.

The double injector allows the flush without requiring technicians to re-enter the room and provide the flush themselves. The upgrade from 16 to 64-slice also improves speed of the scan translating to patients as less time on the table.

XRayPiedmont is also currently using a portable X-Ray machine in addition to its normal machine. This device can be moved into a patient’s ER room to take an x-ray and utilize that mobility to expedite care to its emergency patients. While Ike Ichite, Director of Imaging, stated the portable x-ray aids greatly in emergency care situations, he is still looking forward to a digital upgrade expected to come early next year. The digital upgrade would allow Doctor’s to quickly view the x-ray results bypassing to time to process the shots in radiology and being instantly accessed on screen of the machine.

The full digital images would also greatly increase image quality according to Jennifer Nestor. Having images of high quality instantly available will even further help doctors immediately respond to issues they find through the x-rays.

Also utilized at the local Emergency Department (ED) is the Ultrasound study. Usually utilized in blood studies such as DVT (Deep Vein Thrombosis), blood clot, or gall bladder issues. This device rounds out the “big three” devices used in Piedmont’s ED.

As the new Emergency Department draws closer to opening its doors, greater attention is drawn daily as Ray even commented an expectation that all of Georgia will be focusing on Gilmer County to see if free-standing ER’s could be a solution to Georgia’s rural hospital problems.

RalstonState Speaker David Ralston, in attendance at the Ribbon Cutting, spoke on that subject saying, “The whole issue of Healthcare, particularly in rural Georgia, is very challenging. Over the last three or four years, we’ve had about fifteen or sixteen rural hospitals close in Georgia.”

Ralston jokingly continued saying, “I’ve been able to brag over the last month or two that I’ve got the only one that re-opened.”

However, that was not the only message Speaker Ralston brought to Gilmer County. Thanking the local community for their support in the transition and renovations to the ED, he said, “This whole fear of the clock, the Certificate of Need and the license that was going to expire, is over. It is over, that clock has been turned off.”

The central focus of that fear has been maintaining healthcare in Gilmer County indefinitely.

Piedmont is reinforcing its ED health care with additional support throughout Gilmer County through Medical Offices, local Doctors, as well as an imaging center and local lab, for blood draws and other outpatient studies, located in the Piedmont offices behind Wal-Mart.

These supporting offices will be connected to the ED through Piedmont’s Epic System. This integrated records network will allow for all admissions and care at the Emergency Room to be instantly accessible by Piedmont’s local Doctors as well as vice versa for Emergency Care Physicians to have instant access to the records of Piedmont Doctor’s patients for pertinent information such as drug allergies.

However, Piedmont did say that other Doctors will be able to tie into the Epic System as well. While Emergency Departments can access a Doctor’s Patient files through requests, the Epic System will provide instantaneous access to those reports and files providing an expedited process.

GoochThis Epic System will effectively connect the Piedmont “Community of Healthcare” that seems to have been growing in Gilmer County over the last year. State Senator Steve Gooch stressed the importance of healthcare and its growth in community when he said, “It is very important, not only for our health care, but for our economic development, our communities, and our children… We’re grateful to Piedmont for all their investments, millions of dollars that they’ve spent here in Gilmer County.”

Piedmont is also planning to continue their training and classes they offer through Piedmont Mountainside and are expecting to grow this effort through its growth into Gilmer County. Stay with FYN as we continue our series on Piedmont Healthcare and look deeper at some of their plans for Community Growth through classes, internships, training, participation with local entities, and even their hope for the future in the possibility of two acute-care rooms in the Emergency Department.


Piedmont Emergency Room Delays?


As citizens continue questioning ideas and plans for Gilmer’s future for a hospital, many have stopped questioning how to get a full hospital and are simply asking where the emergency room is?

FYN inquired with Piedmont Hospital about delays in the development and opening of their “Stand-Alone Emergency Room” in Gilmer County. Receiving an official statement, Piedmont responded by saying,

“In October, Piedmont Healthcare and SunLink Health System finalized a lease agreement that will allow Piedmont Mountainside to provide a free-standing Emergency Department in Ellijay. This would reopen the North Georgia Medical Center’s Emergency Department location, which was closed on March 1 by SunLink. Opposition to Piedmont Healthcare’s request to the State, which has now been resolved, delayed progress toward reopening the facility. Demolition is underway to prepare for renovations necessary to provide high-quality, patient-centered services for the Gilmer County community. The anticipated open date is mid-January.”

While many local authorities still harbor concern over the issue, many have resolved themselves to the Emergency Room option after the long battle for opposition. Additionally, Citizens, it seems, are also still holding reservations to see if the Emergency Room Project will last.


Tea Party of Gilmer County announces meeting to discuss Hospital & ER services



Ellijay Joins Appeal Process at Monthly Meeting


The City of Ellijay has joined the Board of Commissioners and the Greater Gilmer Joint Development Authority in appealing the Georgia Department of Community Health’s decision regarding Piedmont’s Emergency Department and Gilmer County’s Certificate of Need. The vote came during last night’s City Council Meeting. The Council voted 4-0 with Lynelle Stewart abstaining from the vote stating she just didn’t know the effect this would have on the Emergency Department that is supposed to come to the county and she did not understand the issue.

Discussion also began in the public comments from several local business owners and citizens to consider allowing the sale of wine from local wineries during city events to fund 501c3 efforts and organizations. Sherryl Adams of Mountain Treasures began the conversation saying, “Ellijay is nationally known for its wine” due to publications like Wine Chronicles and national awards in competitions. She asked the council to consider one day event licenses to allow the sale at local events such as the 4th of July celebration, though Mayor Al Hoyle noted an ordinance change would not be able to pass before that event. Members of the council showed interest in listening to the ideas of potential change including David Westmoreland who mentioned options for one day licenses to include wine sellers while still considering the local businesses that sell beer, but wanted to support the charities via the 501c3.

Mayor Hoyle stated he would be consulting the city’s Alcohol Committee to consider the potential change.

After a brief discussion involving the property owner and a neighbor, the Council did vote 4-1 to rescind their Condemnation of the Johnson House in the City. Katie Lancey was the Council woman in opposition stating in the meeting she had not seen a specific plan or written document to guarantee the residence wouldn’t return to its previous state.

Financially, the City Council accepted the 2015 Audit as well as approved Budget Amendments to reflect the 2015 Actuals. After a presentation from Pamela Fox of the Marshall Insurance Agency and Barber Wilson and Chris Walker of J. Smith Lanier & Co, the Council approved the Property and Liability Insurance Proposal by Glatfelter Public Practice at $35,888 (p. 82). Check out the Audit and Financials as well as the Insurance proposals here.

One final note of the meeting came as the Mayor tabled the discussion for a vacancy in the Historic Preservation Committee due to a lack of nominations for the position.



Hospital Talks Continue in JDA and BOC


Discussion has continued in this “watershed” situation as some citizens have described it.

Worry and concern over the loss of Gilmer County’s Hospital continues to grow as the June 23rd deadline approaches. Seemingly, the County as a whole has been coming together to discuss strategy and the path ahead.

Post Commissioner and Chairman of the Greater Gilmer Joint Development Authority Travis Crouch has been hard at work on the issue, becoming a veritable champion to the cause, as he continues the go-between of the County Commissioners and the Joint Development Authority. However, more continue to rally together as the cities of Ellijay and East Ellijay are set to consider joining the appeal process with representatives already attending this weeks Commissioner’s Special Called Meeting.

The Greater Gilmer Joint Development Authority met Tuesday, June 14, for a three-hour strategy session discussing options and consulting with a visiting attorney. Local Community members also attended the session to weigh in on their thoughts and ideas. Though they had already approved moving forward in the appeals process, the Authority took steps to decide how to progress involving potential legal action and possible hiring of legal representation for the process.

The meeting also spoke several issues the County will have due to the approval including disastrous effects on Gilmer County’s Economic Growth Efforts as well as the increase in response times the County is already suffering from and potentially having to exceed an hour for certain remote parts of the County to reach an actual hospital.

While the Letter of Determination includes Piedmont’s claim to be just under the Department of Community Health’s (DCH) $2,878,487 threshold to require a Certificate of Need Review, Crouch states they have not provided any documentation to the Greater Gilmer JDA to back up this claim. This estimated cost does not include the excess expenses the county will endure as they would be forced to bring people into the local Emergency Department and then immediately transport them to another facility for hospitalization. Many of these patients would likely be transported to Piedmont’s Jasper Hospital, a 52 bed facility that would be attempting to house patients from two counties that both had populations close to 30,000 in 2013, not to mention the growth experienced over the last three years.

The Greater Gilmer JDA was officially joined today, June 16, by the Gilmer County Board of Commissioners as they approved their “Letter of Support in Appeal to Georgia Department of Community Health on Approval of Agreement between Piedmont Mountainside Hospital, Inc. and North Georgia Medical Center.” The Commissioners also began discussion for their consideration for answers to funding concerns involving the new staff and equipment the County has been forced to muster in response to the hospitals closing and transfer of care to Jasper.

Chairman Charlie Paris stated he believe the consequences were too significant and the County had to appeal the process. He was echoed by Post Commissioner Dallas Miller who said is a critical situation, but also wanted copies of the appeal sent to state representatives including the Governor, Speaker of the House, Senator and even to Georgia’s US Representatives.

Chairman Paris went further to reassert himself again that his ultimate goal is to have a hospital with all its facilities in Gilmer County, and had no opposition to Piedmont itself, rather to the specific goal of a stand-alone Emergency Department.

Several others were in attendance of the Commissioners Meeting including, Ruth Ann Harding, Missy Ocobock, and Elaine Ballew, all previously employed at the hospital. These ladies brought for the communities concerns regarding the opening of an Emergency Department without a hospital. The ladies are being approached by older citizens asking, “What am I going to do? I can’t travel to Jasper or Fannin” raising concern for the 25% of Gilmer’s population who fall into that age group of 65 and older.

Crouch also noted to citizens, “I think people feel helpless and hopeless… Don’t.” Crouch continues to offer hope to the citizens in the response of other potential healthcare providers very interested in the purchase and maintenance of a full facility hospital. New information provided in the JDA’s meeting also gave hope that a purchaser of the Certificate of Need could actually build into a new facility in certain areas or potentially any area of the County.

However, both Crouch and Attorney Stanley Jones of Nelson Mullins stated the fight for the Certificate of Need requires the citizens help. Marshaling the public opinion is key to this effort. The public can become involved, and potentially be the key to winning, by joining the efforts.

You can contact your State Representatives below or follow the link to a petition started in support, “Save Gilmer County Certificate of Need“.

State Senator Steve Gooch – (404) 656-9221
Speaker of the House David Ralston – 404.656.5020 or 706.632.2221
Governor Nathan Deal – 404-656-1776


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