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Hospital requires expansion in region, focus on values, CEO says

POSTED: January 13, 2014 11:42 p.m.

Northeast Georgia Health System President and CEO Carol Burrell

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Expansions in Northeast Georgia are what will keep Gainesville’s hospital afloat in an increasingly difficult environment, Northeast Georgia Health System President and CEO Carol Burrell said Monday.

The hospital opened Medical Plaza 400 in Dawson County this past spring, and it is “going gangbusters,” Burrell told a Rotary Club crowd gathered at the First Baptist Church of Gainesville. 

The health system is also on schedule with its planned hospital campus in Braselton, with a second medical office set to open next spring.

And hospital leaders are still working on a partnership with the Habersham County Hospital Authority to legally share resources and services. Burrell said updates to that plan may be coming in the next several weeks or months.

“If we aren’t looking at how we’re going to change our business model with all the changes that are coming toward us, most of it in the way of reductions in revenues, then we’re going to be out of business,” Burrell said.

Hospital leaders are tackling those challenges.

“Focusing on the region, providing those services to that area, is going to help strengthen the mother ship, if you will, back here in Gainesville,” Burrell said.

Part of the hospital’s focus, amid the rapidly changing climate in the health care industry, brought in part by the Affordable Care Act, is re-examining values.

The organization identified the core values of compassion, interdependence, excellence and stewardship.

Burrell said about 500 people, including board members, directors and staff, began the effort about a year and a half ago to clarify those values.

“I spent a lot of time over the past 10 to 15 years understanding those organizations that are successful and survive for the long haul, and without a doubt it’s those organizations that understand their core values,” Burrell told the crowd.

Teams first looked over photos, with individuals picking out the ones they felt fit the system’s values. Two in particular stood out.

“In every single group, the same two pictures were selected,” Burrell said. “One was of a grandfather kissing a baby, so from start of life to end of life, and the other was a team of people in a raft going down rapids, so the turbulent nature but needing to be a team.”

She gave examples, too, of where employees have demonstrated those values.

A hospital employee and young mother of two, breadwinner for her family, became sick, and co-workers rallied to donate money to help.

A patient at New Horizons nursing home was losing weight, until a nutrition services employee noticed and began preparing meals from the patient’s culture.

“If we’re grounded in those (values) ... then we will be best positioned to continue to provide the excellent care that we have for decades here,” Burrell said.

Burrell also noted the trauma care II designation the hospital recently received, which allows more patients to be transported there instead of facilities in Atlanta, and the hospital’s status as one of America’s Best 50 hospitals, according to Healthgrades, and one of the 100 Top Hospitals, according to a study by Truven Health Analytics, formerly the health care business of Thomson Reuters.


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