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Free Wellness Class for Older Adults

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Free Wellness Class for Older Adults

Living Well with ongoing health challenges

A fun and interactive 6-week program proven to help older adults to better manage their health conditions, improve their quality of life, and lower health care costs will be held on Wednesdays, August 7-September 11, 2019, from 2:00pm-4:00pm at St. Mary’s Sacred Heart Hospital in Lavonia.

Participants learn the following: strategies to better manage stress, fatigue, pain, and depression; options for improving and maintaining strength, flexibility, and endurance; techniques for better medication management; suggestions for better communication with family and health care providers; healthy options for better nutrition and weight management; process for effective decision-making; and how to evaluate new treatment options.

The program is provided by Legacy Link Area Agency on Aging in partnership with St. Mary’s Sacred Heart Hospital and is part of the Georgia HealthMatters wellness initiative. The goal is for participants to feel better, be in control of their health, and do the things they want to do.

To reserve a spot in the class, contact Lisa Howard at Legacy Link Area Agency on Aging at 770-538-2711.

Register Today!

Sacred Heart Hospital named a remote treatment stroke center

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Sacred Heart Hospital named a remote treatment stroke center

stroke center

St. Mary's Sacred Heart Hospital has been designated as a Remote Treatment Stroke Center by the Georgia Department of Public Health Office of EMS and Trauma.

The designation recognizes Sacred Heart's quality care for stroke patients, especially its use of telemedicine to provide state-of-the-art emergency treatment locally. Using the REACH telestroke system, doctors at Sacred Heart can consult in real time with specialists at Augusta University Medical Center to administer a powerful clot-busting drug that can stop many strokes in their tracks.

“The Department commends you and your staff for the commitment to excellence in stroke care that is being provided by your facility,” said Kathleen Toomey, MD, Georgia's Public Health Commissioner and State Health Officer, in a letter announcing the designation. “Reducing the incidence and the impact of strokes on individuals in Georgia is exceedingly important.”

“We are honored to be designated as a Remote Treatment Stroke Center,” said Jeff English, President of St. Mary's Sacred Heart Hospital. “The certification process is demanding and highly detailed. I’m proud of our medical staff, hospital staff, and our partners in EMS for their commitment to providing quality care for our patients and our community.”

Stroke is the nation's leading cause of disability and one of the leading causes of death. Georgia is the core the nation's "stroke belt" – a swath of states from Virginia to Texas in which stroke is significantly more common than in other parts of the U.S.

In a stroke, blood flow to part of the brain is interrupted by a blood clot or torn blood vessel. Brain cells "downstream" become stressed and up to 2 million die per minute, damaging any function handled by that part of the brain. For the 80 percent of patients whose stroke is caused by a blood clot, treatment with the clot-busting drug Alteplase can stop the stroke in its tracks and even reverse some effects. But time is critical: in most cases, the drug must be given within about three hours of the onset of symptoms to be effective.

That's why, when a patient with stroke symptoms arrives at Sacred Heart, the emergency department team goes into high gear. If initial testing shows that a stroke is likely, the physician can activate the REACH telestroke system to start a real-time virtual consultation with a stroke specialist at Augusta University Medical Center. Through REACH, the specialist can talk to the patient, physician and nurses; conduct a visual exam; view CT scans and other imagery, and review lab results.

"REACH brings the full knowledge and skill level of board-certified neurologists to Sacred Heart 24 hours a day, seven days a week," English said.

The REACH consultation helps Sacred Heart physicians know if the stroke is being caused by a blood clot and if Alteplase is likely to be safe and effective.

“Alteplase is the most powerful front-line tool we have in the treatment of ischemic stroke, and it can actually reduce or prevent damage to the brain,” said Tyler Davison, manager of Sacred Heart's Emergency Department. "It’s vital that it be administered correctly and only to patients who meet rigorous safety guidelines. Our association with Augusta University Medical Center and St. Mary's allows us to do that.”

Warning signs of stroke

In a stroke, time is brain. It’s essential to call 911 as soon as symptoms appear:

  • Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body
  • Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding
  • Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
  • Sudden trouble walking; dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
  • Sudden severe headache with no known cause

For more information about stroke, visit the American Stroke Association at www.strokeassociation.org. For information about St. Mary's Sacred Heart Hospital, visit www.stmaryssacredheart.org.

Sacred Heart recruiting night shift RNs

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If you are a registered nurse looking for an opportunity to fulfill your calling in a compassionate, evidence-based, faith-inspired health ministry, St. Mary's Sacred Heart Hospital has an opening for you.

We are now recruiting night shift RNs for our Medical/Surgical Department, with a $10,000 sign-on bonus for successful applicants with at least 2 years of RN experience.

St. Mary's Sacred Heart Hospital is a state-of-the-art facility located at 367 Clear Creek Parkway, Lavonia, Ga., just off I-85. Our modern hospital is accredited by The Joint Commission and features 56 private inpatient rooms, 24/7 emergency care and spacious surgical suites. As part of St. Mary's award-winning continuum of care, Sacred Heart Hospital's mission is to be a compassionate and transforming healing presence within our community.

We offer competitive compensation with a benefits package that includes medical, dental and vision insurance, free basic life insurance, 403b retirement plan with employer match, and generous PAL time (personal accrued leave).

For information, contact Sacred Heart Human Resources Department at 706.356.6886 or email swalker2@stmarysathens.org. Apply at https://bit.ly/2Z9lQE3.

Dr. Richard White joins Clear Creek OB/GYN

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Richard White III, MD, a longtime obstetrician and gynecologist practicing in Northeast Georgia, has joined Clear Creek OB/GYN and James Bauerband, MD, effective April 29. The practice is part of St. Mary's Medical Group and delivers babies at St. Mary's Sacred Heart Hospital in Lavonia.

Dr. White provides obstetrical care to women in all stages of pregnancy, from before conception to after delivery, including those with gestational diabetes and high risk pregnancies. In the gynecological aspect of his practice, he provides diagnosis and treatment of disorders affecting the female reproductive system, as well as well-woman programs, cancer screening and surgery. Dr. White also provides post-menopausal care for women who are beyond the childbearing years.

Dr. White has been practicing obstetrics and gynecology since 1993, first in a solo practice in Colorado then with the Emory Clinic in Atlanta starting in 1996. He came to Northeast Georgia in 1998 when he started Ty Cobb Healthcare's Women's Specialists of Northeast Georgia. He has been in solo practice in Royston since 2002.

A native of Chattanooga, Tenn., Dr. White received his bachelor's degree in chemical engineering from Rice University in Houston, Texas, earned his medical degree from Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, and completed his residency in OB/GYN at Emory University Affiliated Hospitals in Atlanta.

Dr. White is as assistant professor of gynecology and obstetrics with Emory University School of Medicine. He is board-certified by the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology, a Fellow with the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, and licensed by the Georgia Board of Medical Examiners.

Dr. White welcomes his current patients who want to continue to receive care from him as well as new patients. As part of St. Mary's Medical Group, he and Clear Creek OB/GYN accept most major insurance plans. New and continuing patient appointments can be scheduled by calling 706.356.0780. Clear Creek OB/GYN is located at 355 Clear Creek Parkway, Suite 1004, Lavonia. For more information about the practice, including new patient paperwork, please visit www.clearcreekobgyn.com.

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Sacred Heart Hospital offers diabetes education course

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Did you know that people with diabetes or pre-diabetes can reduce their risk of heart attack, stroke, blindness, and amputations through education on how to better manage their blood sugar levels?

St. Mary's Sacred Heart Hospital is offering a free, fun, hands-on diabetes education course every Tuesday from June 4 to July 16, 2:30-4:30 p.m., in the hospital's Large Conference Room, 367 Clear Creek Parkway, Lavonia.

Participants will learn from health care professionals as well as from each other. They will receive and share information and coping strategies that can make a huge difference in quality and length of life.

The course will be facilitated by Nancy Chadwick, a retired nurse from Lavonia who is a certified diabetes peer educator through Alliant Quality Innovation Network.

"If you change your diabetes, you are almost guaranteed to change your life," Chadwick says. "Our course will help you learn how to get your blood glucose under control and keep it under control to help prevent the devastating health effects of uncontrolled diabetes."

The course is especially helpful for older adults who have been diagnosed with pre-diabetes or Type 2 diabetes. Course materials were created by Alliant Quality Innovation Network, the Quality Improvement Organization for Georgia and North Carolina. No physician referral is needed. Whether you have Medicare, private insurance or no insurance, this course is free and open to everyone. Space is limited because a small class size is an important part of the learning experience, so call soon to enroll.

For information or to sign up, please contact Karen Villaroel at 678.527.3441.

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Sacred Heart to hold Wellness 5K walk/run on March 30

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St. Mary's Sacred Heart Hospital will host the 3rd Annual Wellness Walk, 5K and Kids' Fun Run, benefitting the Power of Hope, on Saturday, March 30, at 8 a.m. at the hospital at 367 Clear Creek Parkway in Lavonia.

Proceeds from the event will go to The Power of Hope, an all-volunteer, nonprofit group providing support to cancer patients, families and caregivers in Hart, Franklin and Stephens counties.

Runners and walkers of all ages and ability levels are invited for a fun morning of music, snacks, a 1-mile fun run especially for children, and a 5K for runners and walkers of all ages. The competitive 5K will be managed and timed by Fundracers. Non-competitive runners and walkers are welcome, as are strollers and friendly dogs. Registration opens at 7 a.m. The 5K will start at 8 a.m., followed by the fun run at 9 a.m.

Whether you walk or run, the idea is to get moving for a good cause, said Alex Lundy, Community Benefit Manager for St. Mary's Health Care System.

"Exercise is vital to good health, from preventing stroke, heart attack and diabetes to getting a good night's sleep," she said. "We want to encourage people to get out and exercise more, and what better way than through a fun run and 5K? At the same time, we want to support a community partner that is doing great work for people in our area who have cancer."

The out-and-back 5K course will take participants through the beautiful countryside near St. Mary's Sacred Heart Hospital using paved, low-traffic roads. Awards will be given to the top three overall and Masters male and female winners, as well in five-year age groups from 10-and-under to 65-and-over. Plenty of parking will be available at the hospital.

Registration is $25 after March 2nd and $30 on the day of the event. Families can register for a special rate of $79. Fun Run registration is $15. Everyone who registers before March 22nd is guaranteed to receive a t-shirt. Shirts will be available to other participants while supplies last.

To sign up online, go to www.wellness5k.com. For more information and links, visit Wellness Walk and 5K Facebook page. You can also sign up by mail or in person by contacting Gregg Roach at 706.356.7411 or by email at gregg.roach@stmaryssacredheart.org.

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St. Mary’s, UGA holding Stephens County health needs focus group

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St. Mary's Sacred Heart Hospital and the University of Georgia are now gathering information for the 2019 Community Health Needs Assessment (CHNA). To get input from Stephens County citizens, a focus group will be held on Monday, Feb. 18, from 5-6:30 p.m. at the Stephens County Senior Center, 55 Rose Lane Park Drive, Toccoa.

The Community Health Needs Assessment is conducted every three years to get the best possible picture of the region's health needs. St. Mary's and other providers use the information to decide how best to allocate resources to address the community's unmet healthcare needs.

Information is being gathered in different ways in different counties, with all counties in St. Mary's extended service area being represented, including Stephens.

One of the primary methods of gathering information is through focus groups. Participants will discuss their health care needs and the issues they perceive in their community. Comments will be recorded, but all information shared will be handled as confidential, with no names or other identifying information attached. The intent is to allow participants to freely express their concerns and experiences. Light dinner will be provided.

"St. Mary's will develop an implementation strategy based on the top 10 health needs that the CHNA finds in the communities we serve," said Courtney Vickery, St. Mary's Director of Corporate Health Services, which includes community benefit. "When people participate in this focus group, they help us focus our resources so that we can do the most good for the people most in need."

People with questions or who would like to participate are asked to register by contacting Emily Boness, 706.542.1472, or by emailing her at boness@fanning.uga.edu. You can also register by texting 706.229.6266.

For information about Sacred Heart Hospital's community benefits and CHNA process, visit https://www.stmaryssacredheart.org/about-us/mission-and-values/community-benefit.

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AGCS expanding surgical services at Sacred Heart

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Drs. Shirley and Mejias providing surgical care in Lavonia

Lavonia, Ga. – Athens General and Colorectal Surgeons, a St. Mary’s Medical Group practice, has expanded surgical services at St. Mary’s Sacred Heart Hospital. For the first time in several years, surgeons are available for scheduled and emergency procedures during the day, Monday through Friday.

Dr. Sergio Mejias and Dr. Steve Shirley

Steve Shirley, M.D., a native of Franklin County, began practicing part-time at Sacred Heart in the summer of 2018. He has now been joined by longtime Athens surgeon Sergio Mejias, M.D. The two surgeons are rotating weeks at Sacred Heart, providing office consultations and follow-up care, elective surgical procedures, and emergency surgical coverage on weekdays.

“This is a great day for our hospital and the communities we serve,” said Jeff English, President of St. Mary’s Sacred Heart Hospital. “Both of these surgeons are highly experienced, local physician leaders who provide top-quality care.”

English noted that both surgeons are board certified and together have more than 50 years of experience in traditional and minimally invasive procedures. Both earned their medical degrees and completed their residencies and surgical fellowships at Augusta University/Medical College of Georgia.

“The mission of St. Mary’s Health Care System is to be a transforming, healing presence in the communities we serve, and the expansion of St. Mary’s Medical Group surgical services in the Sacred Heart area is an example of how we are constantly working as a network to bring improved access to care for patients in our rural areas,” said Brittainy Horne, Vice President of Physician Services and Strategic Development for St. Mary’s Health Care System.

“Having this team at Sacred Heart elevates our surgical services program to a whole new level,” English said. “More patients will be able to receive the care they need locally, reducing the need for transfers to a distant city and eliminating the stress, time and expense of travel for patients and their families.”

An added benefit, English noted, is that Sacred Heart’s increased surgical capability will promote economic development in and around Franklin County. “Any time you can advance the service line offerings of a rural hospital, you make the community more appealing to businesses, industries, retirees, and the work force,” he said.

Services provided by Drs. Mejias and Shirley include the surgical and non-surgical treatment of conditions affecting the breast, thyroid, esophagus, stomach, gallbladder, appendix, and colon, among others. They also provide hernia repair, colonoscopy and upper endoscopy services, as well as the surgical treatment of hemorrhoids. In addition, Dr. Mejias has robotic surgery privileges at St. Mary’s Hospital in Athens.

Sacred Heart Hospital is equipped and staffed to provide inpatient and outpatient surgeries, post-anesthesia care, and recovery services, with critical care services available when needed. In addition, the hospital provides a continuum of care to help with everything from diagnosis to recovery, including imaging capabilities such as ultrasound and CT, laboratory services, and rehabilitation services.

Athens General and Colorectal Surgeons’ Lavonia office is located in the Sacred Heart Medical Services Building at 367 Clear Creek Parkway, Suite 1007. As part of St. Mary’s Medical Group, AGCS accepts most major insurance plans and Medicare. For more information, call 706.548.5488 or visit www.athensgeneralsurgeons.com.

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St. Mary’s, UGA holding Elbert County health needs focus group

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St. Mary's and the University of Georgia are now gathering information for the 2019 Community Health Needs Assessment (CHNA). To get input from Elbert County citizens, a focus group will be held on Wednesday, Feb. 6, from 12 noon to 1:30 p.m. at Elbert Memorial Hospital, 4 Medical Drive, Elberton, in the Charles Ruff Room.

The Community Health Needs Assessment is conducted every three years to get the best possible picture of the region's health needs. St. Mary's and other providers use the information to decide how best to allocate resources to address the community's unmet healthcare needs.

Information is being gathered in different ways in different counties, with all counties in St. Mary's extended service area being represented, including those served by St. Mary's Sacred Heart and Good Samaritan hospitals.

One of the primary methods of gathering information is through focus groups such as the one in Elbert County. Participants will discuss their health care needs and the issues they perceive in their community. Comments will be recorded, but all information shared will be handled as confidential, with no names or other identifying information attached. The intent is to allow participants to freely express their concerns and experiences. Lunch will be provided.

"St. Mary's will develop an implementation strategy based on the top 10 health needs that the CHNA finds in the communities we serve," said Courtney Vickery, St. Mary's Director of Corporate Health Services, which includes community benefit. "When people participate in this focus group, they help us focus our resources so that we can do the most good for the people most in need."

People with questions or who would like to participate are asked to register by contacting Emily Boness, 706.542.1472, or by emailing her at boness@fanning.uga.edu. You can also register by texting 706.229.6266.

For information about St. Mary's Health Care System's CHNA process, click here (https://www.stmarysathens.org/about-us/community-benefit/).

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St. Mary’s Sacred Heart Hospital, UGA surveying community about health needs

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If you live in Franklin or Hart counties, your input is needed to help St. Mary's Sacred Heart Hospital and other providers better meet the healthcare needs of our community.

In partnership with the University of Georgia, St. Mary's is surveying area residents for its 2019 Community Health Needs Assessment (CHNA). This assessment is conducted every three years, as required by the IRS, to get the best possible picture of the region's health needs. St. Mary's and other providers use the information to decide how best to allocate resources to address the community's unmet needs.

A link to the survey can be found at https://www.stmaryssacredheart.org/chna/.

"Sacred Heart will develop an implementation strategy based on the top 10 health needs that the CHNA finds in our community," said Alex Lundy, St. Mary's community benefits coordinator. "When people complete the survey, they help us focus our resources where they will do the most good for the people most in need."

For example, Lundy said, the 2016 CHNA process identified access to care, chronic disease management and mental health issues as three of the most pressing needs in Sacred Heart's service area.

"Due to that, we started the diabetes support group and self-management classes, a medication assistance program, and a community Narcotics Anonymous and Alcoholics Anonymous resource directory, along with other social services directories and programs," she said.

The survey is voluntary and all responses are anonymous. You can choose not to answer any question. Everyone who participates in the survey will have the opportunity to be entered into a weekly drawing for a gift card.

Questions begin with basic demographic information, then continue with information about topics such as insurance status, access to transportation, health conditions, affordability of medications, diet and exercise, housing quality, neighborhood safety, and whether you are able to see a doctor or dentist when you need to.

The online survey will be open until Jan. 31 for any resident of Franklin or Hart counties and adjacent areas. For more information about the survey, please contact Dr. Grace Bagwell Adams at 706.713.2701 or by email at gbagwell@uga.edu. For information about St. Mary's Sacred Heart Hospital's CHNA process and community benefits program, please visit

www.stmaryssacredheart.org/about-us/mission-and-values/community-benefit.

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