Friday April 19th, 2024 7:55PM

Year in review: Northeast Georgia Health System President discusses 2023

By Hamilton Keener Anchor / Reporter

Northeast Georgia Health System President and CEO Carol Burrell recently discussed the challenges NGHS faced in 2023 and what they look forward to in 2024. 

“We have had a really busy, productive year. I would say that our biggest challenge has probably been managing all of the growth that is occurring throughout our entire region, which is exciting,” Burrell said. “One of the biggest challenges that we have faced in recent years since COVID has been nursing shortages. I'm happy to say that we've made tremendous progress in filling those open nursing positions, but we still have a shortage.” 

Burrell said NGHS has partnered with local universities to combat the nursing shortage, but they also have an internal method. 

“We have done several things, certainly partnering, with UNG and Breanu, but we've also done some of our own internal cohorting, if you will. Where, we have existing employees who are not clinically trained, and we are putting them through programs in conjunction with Lanier Tech for them to become a patient care tech,” Burrell said. “We actually pay them to go to school, allow them an opportunity, and then guarantee them a job when they come out.”

Burrell discussed NGHS's recent addition to Habersham County

“One of our biggest changes in 2023 was bringing Habersham Medical Center in to be a part of Northeast Georgia Health System,” Burrell said. “That is a partnership that we have worked on over the years, and we consider it obviously a part of our service area. We are excited to have them officially be a part of Northeast Georgia Health System and to work with that facility to expand services, improve the quality and outcomes and provide that for the people in that community.”

Burrell said NGMC Habersham has experienced 50% more visits to the emergency room in November than in previous years. 

NGMC Gainesville received accreditation to provide the highest level of care for patients after a traumatic injury. 

“Here in Gainesville, we were verified as a level one trauma center. We are one of only five designated level-one trauma centers in Georgia,” Burrell said. 

Burrell discussed the continued growth of the Georgia Heart Institute. 

“We performed our first robotic heart surgery,” Burrell said “We have had stories where patients have been able to walk out of the hospital in just two days after having open heart surgery with the robot.”

NGHS performed multiple procedures using robotics in 2023. 

“We also in the way of robots, offered our first knee replacement through robotics, and we're seeing greater accuracy and a faster recovery as a result of that,” Burrell said. “We also performed our first ion robotic bronchoscopy. This is very exciting for lung cancer patients; it helps to diagnose lung cancer much sooner, and with more accuracy, and the life-saving treatments are proving to be really helpful in taking care of lung cancer at an early stage.”

Burrell said the growth NGHS has experienced over the past year took years of planning. 

“It doesn't just happen overnight,” Burrell said. “What we have looking ahead, is successfully managing to meet the needs of this growing community while still staying strong financially as an organization.”

NGMC Gainesville will debut a new patient tower in late 2024 or early 2025.

“I'm sure folks here in Gainesville see the construction on our new patient tower. The exterior glass is being installed now. So it's really coming in and looks great,” Burrell said. “That will be opening the end of 24, early 25. So that will be very exciting and fulfill a huge capacity need that we have on the Gainesville campus.”

AccessWDUN is speaking with local officials across Northeast Georgia for a series of Year in Review stories to wrap up 2023. Stay tuned each day this week for new installments in this series.

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