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Regional hospitals look back on 2019 growth

Regional hospitals look back on 2019 growth

Western North Carolina hospitals under the Duke LifePoint umbrella are celebrating several milestones in making communities healthier as a new year begins.

In 2019, Harris Regional Hospital and Swain Community Hospital added more than a dozen new physicians, physician assistants and nurse practitioners to its practices in Jackson, Swain, and Macon counties. Specialties include pulmonology and sleep medicine, cardiology, orthopaedics, pediatrics, primary care, and wound care. Eight additional physicians and providers are scheduled to start in 2020. Specialties include cardiology, orthopaedics, primary care, general surgery, vascular surgery, and women’s care.

“It’s been an incredible year in terms of recruiting physicians to practice in our communities,” said Steve Heatherly, CEO of Harris and Swain. “When additional physicians and providers choose to practice at our hospitals, we expand access to care. In 2019 we significantly expanded our cardiology, orthopaedics, and primary care services and will bring a new service line to Harris in 2020 with the addition of a vascular surgeon.”

Harris and Swain accomplished strategic initiatives in 2019 such as partnering with Appalachian Mountain Community Health Centers at the Robbinsville location to open a physical therapy clinic. The clinic has grown to offer patient appointments five days a week. At Harris, the cardiology team performed its first cardiac intervention, following the continued growth of diagnostic catheterization procedures in 2017 and 2018. The addition of interventional cardiology at Harris means that those who call Western North Carolina home have access to high quality cardiac care nearby without the burden of travel, Heatherly said. 

Both hospitals have experienced substantial growth in terms of utilization by the region. Harris and Swain served more patients in 2019 than in 2018 in the areas of emergency department visits, surgical procedures, births, and inpatient rehabilitation care. 

In 2019, Harris and Swain honored employees for a collective 1,275 years of service, something Heatherly is quite proud of. 

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“None of our growth would be possible without our outstanding employees at all of our locations, including the hospitals, urgent care center, outpatient clinics, and physician practices,” he said. “We were excited to honor many with awards for years of dedication to our patients and organization, and to recognize others for compassionately delivering an excellent patient experience.”

At Swain Community, the following employees were selected by their peers for making outstanding contributions to the patient experience: Becky Cochran, Connie Millsaps, Jessica Cochran, Tammie Mashburn, Tammy Stephenson, Mary Smith, Amber Wasson, Courtney Orr, Ted Moore, Levi Weigand, Daniel Mackey, MD, Kevin Ray, and Rick Gass.

The Mercy Award winner for Harris and Swain was security officer Don Clawson. The Mercy Award recognizes one employee from each of LifePoint Health’s hospitals who profoundly touches the lives of others and best represents the spirit and values on which the company was founded. 

In 2019, Harris and Swain’s community partnerships with Western Carolina University and Southwestern Community College continued to thrive. Harris Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine cared for student-athletes on the field and on the sidelines at WCU events as the exclusive health care partner for Catamount athletics. Caroline Rooney and Hannah Caplinger completed the family nurse practitioner program as part of The Ascent Partnership in which the hospitals fund tuition in exchange for three years of practice with the hospitals. The Student Nurse Apprentice Program with SCC has resulted in Kendra Wittman and Brandi Nations obtaining nurse aide certifications and licensure, practicing at Harris as certified nurse aides.

Looking ahead, Harris and Swain plan to expand access to care by completing a renovation to the Harris Regional Cancer Center, increasing availability for Harris Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine, and opening a vein center on the Harris campus. In the first part of 2020, Harris will install new mammography technology, operating room equipment, and upgraded cardiology systems. 

“It is our privilege to play a role in making communities healthier,” Heatherly said. “We are honored each time an individual or family chooses one of our facilities to seek care. We  will continue to strive to deliver an excellent experience one patient at a time.”

Haywood Regional Medical Center in Clyde also had many successes in 2019 and more to look forward to in 2020, according to CEO Rod Hackleroad.

HRMC recruited 11 new physician providers in OB/GYN, primary care, cardiology, orthopedics, gastrointestinal, family practice, psychiatrists and ophthalmology. Duke-trained Dr. Miller joined the peripheral vascular program, and Dr. Marshall came on board for plastic surgery. In addition, HRMC opened the new Cosmetic and Wellness Center. 

The hospital has also seen significant growth in its cardiology service line. Services like heart caths, pacemakers, interventional cardiology and diagnostic testing grew by 200 percent. Strong growth was also reported in urology, the vein center, infusion center, sleep studies, intensive care and primary care offices. 

In 2019, HRMC developed a residency program with MACHE, psychiatry and general surgery (physician); began a clinical rotation program for nurse practitioners and physician assistants for Duke University students; received state certification to train certified nursing assistants; partnered with N.C. Serves to assist veterans with health care needs and invested over $200,000 to start a paramedic program in collaboration with Haywood County.

Haywood was nationally recognized for an “A” grade from LeapFrog Group,  a nonprofit organization that is “the nation’s premier advocate of hospital transparency — collecting, analyzing and disseminating hospital data to inform value-based purchasing.” 

The hospital’s Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) rating is four stars and was awarded a platinum designation by The National Organ Donation Society. HRMC also achieved Cardiac Cath Lab accreditation, Chest Pain Center accreditation, national accreditation in American College of Surgeon Commission on Cancer.

“We are the third hospital in the country to treat lung cancer using parenchymal lung cancer microwave ablation using a cone beam laser,” Harkleroad said. “The only other hospitals performing this treatment are Duke, Vanderbilt, and the University of California.”

Harris, Swain and Haywood were all purchased by for-profit health care system Duke LifePoint in 2014. Before the acquisition, the nonprofit hospitals were struggling financially, but the sale came with LifePoint’s commitment to invest $43 million in capital improvements at Harris and Swain and $36 million at HRMC over the next eight years.


New providers

New physicians and providers at Harris Regional Hospital and Swain Community Hospital 

• Christine Kryger, NP and Leslie Morris, NP – Harris Pulmonary and Sleep Center

• Scott Westermeyer, MD and Anne Fullbright, PA – Harris Cardiology

• John Songer, MD and Joshua Wu, DO – Harris Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine

• Arielle Lankford, PNP and Norma Burdette, FNP – Swain Family Care

• Caroline Rooney, FNP and Hannah Caplinger, FNP – Harris Family Care – Franklin

• Ryan Marshall, DO and Song Washington, PA – Harris Wound Healing and Hyperbaric Center

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