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June 12, 2008 Issue

Stolen car torn apart in wreck
Health science building dedicated at STC campus
Hospital announces 2007 profits and growth
Stapleton mayor qualifying opens
Glascock County acquires first new fire engine

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Stolen car torn apart in wreck

By Carol McLeod
Staff Writer

Saturday morning, Jefferson County Deputy Tony Arrington was on his way to work on Ga. Hwy 1 when a car, driven by another Tony Arrington, passed him going in the opposite direction.

The officer clocked the other vehicle, a stolen Acura, at 94 mph, he said.

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The deputy said he turned around and called the Wrens Police Department to alert them about the vehicle as it was headed that way.

“I did check his speed,” the officer said. “I never initiated a chase.

“I actually stopped a vehicle. It was the exact same color and size. She (the driver) told me a car had just run her off the road, (driven) by somebody that was traveling at an extremely high rate of speed.”

Deputy Arrington said it wasn’t full daylight.

“It was right at dawn,” he said. “I just glanced up and saw the front of the car in the woods.”

The officer said he told the woman driver to stay where she was so he could take a statement. He called for fire, rescue and an ambulance.

“He must have climbed out of that car,” the deputy said. “The passenger side door was opened. His shoes were pinned between the floorboard and the center console of the car. He was barefoot. It just amazed me that he was literally standing when I got there. We’re fairly certain he was intoxicated. I could smell an odor of alcohol.”

Carl Wagster, the EMS director in Jefferson County, said it looked like the driver lost control of the car.

“(He) struck a telephone pole sideways, cut the car in two,” Wagster said. “Due to the mechanism of injury, the car being cut in two and he was ejected, the crew elected to have him transported by helicopter to MCG,” he said.

The driver was taken by ambulance to the Wrens airport where he was transported to the Augusta hospital.

“He gave us a false name,” Wagster said. “He gave us his name as Xavier Johnson, but that was not his real name.”

Wagster said it was reported the man had possible fractures in both legs, possible fractures in his ribs and possible spinal injuries.

Deputy Arrington said the man gave him the same name, that of Xavier Johnson.

“When he got to MCG, they found an ID in his pocket and that’s how we got the correct name,” the deputy said.

The driver’s correct name is Tony Ray Arrington, according to Deputy Arrington, whose first name is also Tony. The deputy added that their birthdates are only two weeks apart and his birthday is one year later than the driver’s.

Arrington, the driver, was found to have escaped from Coastal Transitional Center in Savannah.

Deputy Arrington said the driver had escaped Friday, June 6. He stole the car he was driving.

“Coastal Correctional Institute is a state facility,” the deputy said. “I don’t know what he was convicted of, but he had already been convicted and sentenced.”

The deputy said the car had been stolen in Chatham County.

“Once we found out he was an escapee from the state, the state was notified and they sent their people here,” Deputy Arrington said, adding a trooper from the Georgia State Patrol was called in to work the scene.

“We didn’t know if he was going to live. He was literally standing when I got there, but he quickly laid down. We called a trooper out there just in case it was a fatality,” the deputy said.

On Monday, Denise Parrish, a spokesman with MCG, said Arrington had been treated and was released.

According to a Georgia Department of Corrections website, Tony Ray Arrington has been known to use the alias Tony Ray Hardy. He was convicted of two counts of theft by receiving stolen property and one count of burglary. The county where he was convicted is Richmond County, according to the site.

Paul Czachowski, the Georgia DOC’s public affairs manager, said Tony Ray Arrington was a Coastal Transitional Center resident when he escaped.

Czachowski said the center houses individuals convicted of crimes, but who have been selected for this transitional program. They work during the day or night and live in the facility.



Health science building dedicated at STC campus

By Carol McLeod
Staff Writer

City, county and other officials along with members of the public attended a ribbon cutting ceremony for the Jefferson County Health Science Building at 1257 Warrior Trail in Louisville on Wednesday, June 4.

Matt Hodges, director of the Jefferson County Center of STC, welcomed the guests, expressing his thanks for everyone who attended the event.

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“This is what it’s all about,” Hodges said. “I’ve been blessed to be a part of this process,” he said of the new building. He thanked the Jefferson County Board of Commissioners and County Administrator Paul Bryan for their help. He thanked the STC Board of Directors and staff.

“We are here today to celebrate the vision of our community leaders,” said Jefferson County Commission Chairman William Rabun. “With dedication and cooperation we have made our dream come true. Thanks to everyone who had a part.

“One thing we can say about this project, this was a concentrated effort of Jefferson County.”

Jefferson County Board of Education Superintendent Carl Bethune pointed out that the area where the Health Science Building now stands was just a big field not too long ago.

“Without the collaboration for this facility, we wouldn’t be here today,” Bethune said. “I thank all the partners.”

Dr. Lloyd Horadan, president of STC, added his thanks to everyone who helped bring the new facility to the area.

“I really do want to thank all of our partners,” he said. “Truly, it’s a partnership and it’s a partnership of passion. No community has a greater vision than Jefferson County. This campus has six more buildings in its future, if we have our way.”

Leslie Thigpen, the department chair of Health Occupations for all three of STC’s campuses, said STC will be increasing its dual enrollment offerings with Jefferson County High School.

“We’re also planning to increase our program offerings to adult students,” Thigpen said. “With this new building we may be able to increase the number of practical nursing students we accept every year. We also want to offer new health occupation programs. There are a couple of programs we’re considering.

This is going to be an excellent opportunity to train LPNs and CNAs,” she said. “We have lots of great things planned.”

Thigpen credited Hodges with spearheading the process that funded the creation of the new building.

The funding was awarded from a Community Development Block Grant from 2005. These are HUD funds competitively awarded annually through the Georgia Department of Community Affairs, according to Anne Floyd, director of local government services, CSRA Regional Development Center.

“The hospital and the board of commissioners helped. There were so many groups and agencies that worked together to get this grant. We couldn’t have done it without everyone working together,” Thigpen said.



Hospital announces 2007 profits and growth

By Parish Howard
Editor/Publisher

In his first annual community benefits report as Jefferson Hospital’s new CEO, Heyward “Sonny” Wells III said he was proud of the hospital’s progress over the last year.

“I am excited about our report,” he said. “We’ve had another successful year despite the challenges that continue to face rural healthcare.”

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Wells’ report showed a six percent increase in gross revenue, up $1,328,637 from 2006 revenue figures for a total of $24,652,522 in 2007.

Inpatient revenue was up 12 percent to more than $8.6 million. Outpatient revenue was up two percent to nearly $15.7 million.

All of this while deductions from revenue, largely made up of contractual agreements with insurance companies and Medicaid on what percentages of costs they will pay, climbed a whopping 25 percent to $12,907,875.

“I would say 75 percent of the citizens of Jefferson County are on Medicare or Medicaid,” Wells said. “These agencies tell you how much of your costs they are going to pay, costs now, not what you charge, but what it costs you to provide services. And that doesn’t include your doctor’s time.”

Even after providing $1,868,336 in indigent care and with $1,840,937 in bad debt, people simply refusing to pay their bills or deductibles, the publicly owned hospital still made approximately $569,000 last year. That is a 22.37 percent increase over 2006.

“In a time when so many small, rural hospitals are struggling to provide minimum care, we are constantly working to provide new services to our community,” Wells said.

He said that is it not unusual for many of these small hospitals to have only two days of cash reserves. Jefferson Hospital, through years of planning and dedicated service is proud to announce that it increased its reserves by a more than $100,000 in 2007 and now has 83 days of cash-on-hand reserves.

“This really is excellent,” he said. “This is a product of excellent management and great physicians who do what it takes to take care of our citizens.”

Major Challenges

A major concern particularly for small, rural hospitals is the fact that the number of people who are uninsured continues to rise, Wells said.

“There are a lot of people who can’t afford insurance at all,” Wells said. “Then there are those who are underinsured. They technically have insurance, but their deductibles are so high, they can’t afford to pay them.”

This is reflected in the fact that the hospital continues to see an increase in self-paid and Medicare clients and a decrease in both commercial and Medicaid clients.

In all, in 2007, the hospital provided more than $3,709,000 in uncompensated care.

“And there is a move now that could restrict our access to the state’s indigent care trust fund,” Wells said.

Last year Jefferson Hospital received around $300,000 from this fund, a small portion of the $1.86 million they spent on indigent care.

“But if we lose that, it is going to make it that much harder,” Wells said.

He said that he hopes the legislature will take these concerns to heart and work to make insurance more affordable and protect what funding resources rural hospitals have.

Advances

Wells attributes much of the hospital’s success to the dedication of both its board and its staff in providing the best care possible to the people of the county.

In the last year the hospital has added Dr. Lisa Counsell in Wadley and Physician’s Assistant Jennifer Tanner to the Louisville clinic. Plans have also been finalized for Dr. Brandy Gheesling, a pediatrician, to join the hospital’s staff in July.

The hospital expanded its surgical hours of operation and has seen a 10 percent increase in outpatient surgery procedures and a 38 percent increase in outpatient endo/minor procedures.

Wells’ staff has also completed plans for a laboratory expansion, expanded hours in radiology and completed plans for a sleep lab addition.

“As time goes on we are going to see a lot out of our newly revitalized Jefferson Hospital Foundation,” Wells said. “Its focus is on improving the overall wellness of our community and it is working on a number of projects dealing with preventative health programs throughout the county. Its motto is Wellness Can’t Wait.”




Stapleton mayor qualifying opens

By Faye Ellison
Staff Writer

The City of Stapleton will hold qualifying for the position of mayor next week.

The city has been without a mayor since last year according to City Hall, when a qualifying period was held to fill the spot left vacant by longtime mayor Harold Smith. No one qualified during that time. Currently Kevin Prescott is mayor pro-tem.

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Qualifying to fill the mayor position will be held next week June 16 through June 19 from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at City Hall. City Hall will be closed on June 18 and is closed from 12:30-1:30 p.m. for lunch each day. The qualifying fee is $50.

Those who qualify will be on the ballot July 15 during the city’s special election. Polls will be open from 7 a.m.-7 p.m. that day.

All citizens who are not registered to vote and who want to vote in this election should register by the close of business on June 16.




Glascock County acquires first new fire engine

By Jessica Newberry
Intern

With wailing sirens and flashing lights, the Glascock County Fire Department’s latest addition arrived on Wednesday, June 4.

Fire chief Frank McGahee and the fire department have reason to be excited. This is the first new fire engine the county has ever gotten.

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“The newest ones we had before this one were used 1978 and 1979 models from Richmond County,” said McGahee. “We’ve been working on getting a new one for eight or 10 years, and the commissioners were able to finally help us out.”

The new engine was purchased from Fireline, Inc., in Winder and cost approximately $250,000.

McGahee brought the engine from Winder along with assistant chief Steve Mathis, EMA director Mike Hines and Glascock County Sheriff’s Office Deputy and volunteer firefighter Jeremy Kelley.

Although the Glascock County Commission attempted to get a Homeland Security grant, they eventually found other sources of revenue.

“We got funding from the legislature and from money in reserve from the landfill project,” said Anthony Griswell, Glascock County Commission chairman. “We were able to put $70,000 down, and the remainder will be put in the budget under a five-year payment plan.”

“We tried it from all angles, and it took everyone working together to get a piece of equipment like this for such a small county,” Griswell said. “We hope that it will save lives and property as well as helping citizens with insurance bills.”

The county has an older model ambulance, but the new fire engine will take calls for accidents as well as fires.

“This truck has a lot of first aid equipment, so some of our first responders and the county’s three EMT-trained firefighters will respond to calls on this truck,” McGahee said.

The fire engine comes with a generator, an automatic external defibrillator and a Holmatro cutter to extract people from vehicles. McGahee also hopes that the 330-horsepower truck will improve the department’s response time, allowing them to reach any county line within seven minutes.

“It will really improve our capacity to fight fires, especially since the only pumper belonged to the city before this,” said McGahee. “This one has all the bells and whistles.”

The engine will run 65 miles per hour and holds 1,250 gallons of water. It can also pump water at the rate of 1,250 gallons per minute.

After a training session by Fireline on Wednesday, June 11, Glascock County’s 17 volunteer firefighters will be ready to operate the new engine. Nine first responders, three of whom are certified EMTs, will also be trained to answer calls on this truck.

Engine No. 2 will be housed in the city limits but will be used to fight fires anywhere in the county.

“The city already has Engine No. 1, so I guess we’ll just have to go with a No. 2 decal on this one,” said McGahee. “We sure are proud of it, though.”




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