Noteworthy $5 Million Capital Infusion for Highlands-Cashiers Hospital Bringing Facility Improvements, New Technology and Enriched Care Offerings

Tom Neal

Tom Neal

By Tom Neal, RN, MBA, MHA

Some new developments happening at Highlands-Cashiers Hospital (HCH) are enhancing our imaging capabilities and strengthening the infrastructure of the entire hospital. We are also preparing to welcome another new physician here, who will enable us to offer services that haven’t been available at HCH for years.

We recently received a remarkable capital funds infusion for the hospital of nearly $5 million from HCA Healthcare. This investment will bring advanced imaging technology to the Plateau and strengthen our infrastructure, which in turn will allow us to provide better care.

Much of this capital will be used to update nuts-and-bolts facility features, like a new air conditioning system, elevator refreshments, a building automation system, upgrades to our kitchen, major plumbing repairs and replacement of our medical air and vacuum system. While infrastructure enhancements are not flashy or even visible to most visitors to HCH, they are the types of investments that will allow us to deliver care even more safely and efficiently, so we can continue to serve our community for a long time.

Another very positive upgrade at HCH that the capital investment is fueling is in the realm of medical technology, specifically within the arena of imaging. We will be acquiring a new digital X-ray suite, which brings the latest advances in technology to the Plateau. The new technology allows for significant advantages to the technologists, such as ease of use, immediate visibility of the X-rays, the ability to optimize the images and improved data storage. Just think of how much better pictures from your smart phone are compared to the ones produced by old cameras with film. But more importantly, this technology reduces the amount of radiation it takes to shoot an X-ray, making it safer for our patients.

An additional enhancement our imaging technology will be making is an upgrade to the latest 3D mammography platform. The advanced technology on these new 3D mammography units produces sharper, more nuanced images of the breast, enabling the radiologist to have more complete visual clinical data for review and diagnostic purposes.

One of the most difficult conversations we have in healthcare is the disclosure of a grim prognosis to a cancer patient. The 3D mammography technology has continued to advance over the last decade and has been proven to offer superior visualization, especially for women with dense breast tissue. The advanced technology also reduces false positives. When a false positive occurs, there’s a call to a patient informing them that they need more X-rays to confirm there is no abnormality like cancer. This can create extreme anxiety for a patient, and this capability saves them from the stress of getting called back for more tests.

I am happy to see this growth at HCH, as it enables us to provide more and better care to the Plateau. The benefits I’ve described illustrate the immense value in our being part of HCA Healthcare.

Another upcoming change that will allow us to expand the care we offer our patients is the addition of yet another new physician. He is an orthopedic surgeon, and his arrival will mean that we can restart surgical services that we haven’t offered in more than five years. I’ll have more details on this in next month’s column.

In closing, I want to remind you to stay safe. COVID-19 continues to be present, and it is important that we continue to practice social distancing. Like many of you, I look forward to the day we can quit worrying about wearing a mask or just going to the grocery store. However, we are not out of the woods.

I also want to make you aware of our Insurance Assistance Hotline [1], which offers help for those struggling with being uninsured during the pandemic. Our trained professionals are there to assist those who need help applying for emergency medical coverage, from COBRA insurance to Medicaid. You can contact them Monday through Friday from 8 am to 6 pm at 833-541-5757 [2].

Highlands-Cashiers Hospital aerial view

Tom Neal, RN, MBA, MHA, is the Chief Executive Officer and Chief Nursing Officer (CNO) of Highlands-Cashiers Hospital.

Highlands-Cashiers Hospital, a member of Mission Health, an operating division of HCA Healthcare, is a community hospital serving Macon, Jackson and the surrounding counties. Located on Highway 64 between the towns of Highlands and Cashiers, the hospital offers 24/7 emergency care, acute inpatient care, rehabilitation, as well as long-term care through Eckerd Living Center. Highlands-Cashiers Hospital has 24 beds for acute care services and 80 beds in the Eckerd Living Center. Ambulatory services are also available, including therapy services and primary care practices serving both Highlands and Cashiers. For more information, visit [3].