Georgia Governor Nathan Deal visited Fire House 1 in Gilmer County Thursday to officially sign House Bill 146 known as the “Firefigher’s Cancer Insurance Bill.”
Joined by several officials including Georgia House Speaker David Ralston and Senator Steve Gooch, author of the bill Micah Gravley, District 67 Representative, opened the ceremony by speaking about the two year effort to bring the bill to this point. Gravley related his interactions with two firefighters, Frank Martinez and Brian Scutter, who he said were the honor of the Bill as they fought for and spoke with legislators to get the bill passed, as well as the appropriateness to have the signing in Scutter’s home station in Gilmer County. Scutter was also mentioned by Speaker Ralston who said he had made a promise to Brian that he would give all that was in him to bring this day about. Turning to face Scutter, Ralston said, “I kept my promise.”
Governor Nathan Deal, who originally vetoed last year’s Bill 216 called the new House Bill 146 an “innovative and great solution to the situation.” Deal said the Bill provides relief for firefighters by providing a different method for compensation and money for treatment and care for firefighters who contract cancers during their work. Gravley thanked the Governor for his support of, as he called it, a “better bill.”
The sentiment was echoed by Speaker Ralston who said, “We have arrived at a better solution. By requiring a local government to provide insurance to our firefighters for certain types of cancer, the firefighter can skip the process of litigating a worker’s comp claim. This will allow the firefighter to focus on getting better and recovery rather than having to worry about legal bills and depositions and hearings.”
FYN caught up with Speaker Ralston and Governor Deal to ask them to elaborate on why the bill is better, comparative to last years Bill 216. The Speaker replied saying, “This uses a Health Insurance Model as opposed to a Workman’s Comp model which means instead of having to make a claim and perhaps go through a court type process to get benefits and income, Firefighters in this case will file a claim just like health insurance.”
Governor Deal also spoke on the insurance versus workman’s comp comparison saying it was an awkward and “adversarial way of deciding whether or not compensation is owed.” Deal went on to say the newer Bill is a much better solution “to provide insurance coverage that will define benefits and give some flexibility as to deciding the compensation that will be given to firefighters.”
More than Senators and Congressman came to see Deal sign the Bill, though. Several representatives from neighboring and local emergency services attended the event including Gilmer’s own Director of Public Safety Tony Pritchett who said the Bill “gives you a sense of protection… You can lay your head down and sleep better at night knowing that if you contract cancer because of the job, there’s some protection that will take care of you and your family.”
For more on the Signing of House Bill 146 watch the full ceremony below or find more Photos in our Album:
Celebrations arose as citizens packed into the Gilmer Agriculture Education Facility at Clear Creek Middle School to celebrate the Ribbon Cutting on Saturday, March 25.
Actually, staff members had to bring out extra seating for people as they overfilled the bleachers. Georgia House Speaker David Ralston took notice as he spoke of North Georgia’s community and how it supports its students saying, “This does reflect the great support this community has for its young people, for education, and for Agriculture.”
In response, the local FFA Officers presented Speaker Ralston with a plaque in appreciation of his support for Gilmer High School Agriculture Education Program as well as the new food processing facility.
Speaker Ralston was not the only visitor Gilmer had to commemorate the event as we hosted Georgia Department of Education State Director for Career, Technical, and Agricultural Education, Dr. Barbara Wall, and Georgia Department of Education State Agriculture Education Program Manager, John “Chip” Bridges.
Bridges not only lauded the facility, but took time to praise the Gilmer County students. Going back years, Bridges said he had always been impressed by Gilmer Students and their attitudes and work through the agricultural program saying, “It’s an honor to be here to witness this facility which almost come close enough to matching the quality of the students that you have here.” He also went on to say Gilmer’s Facility is not only the best in the state, but competes nationally for quality saying even California has nothing like Gilmer’s facility. Echoing sentiments, he thanked the Board of Education for investing in the facility and the teachers for their efforts in the students.
Gilmer FFA alumni and Georgia FFA State Vice President Sadie Lackey honored Gilmer’s FFA program recalling her six years of experience. Comparing Gilmer’s students at state and national competitions, constant awards and honors, and acceptance to national universities, Lackey called Gilmer’s Students an “elite” among the 41,000 across the state. Lackey, however, did not talk about the benefits the facility would give the community, instead telling them to experience it themselves saying, “We will witness the greatness firsthand.”
As the ceremony came to a close, citizens were invited to tour the facility and experience what the students would be, and since Saturday have already begun, experiencing daily as the facility is put to use. With members and organizations of the community already inquiring as to how they might schedule and utilize the new facility, the Board of Education is currently revising their use agreement and should be ready to allow the community use in as early as two weeks. Superintendent Dr. Shanna Wilkes stated, “I think it is a tremendous asset to the community,” and encourages those looking for a larger space to utilize the facility, but wants to maintain the Agriculture Program as the priority users.
Plans have already begun for uses other than first livestock show including a May 11 banquet, Prom on April 22, and its first event Ag Day going on tomorrow, March 29.
Make sure to take your own tour of the facility by checking out more pictures below:
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.
During 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 older 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.
Piedmont 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.
State 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.
This 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.