HCH plans new clinic for Highlands

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The Jane Woodruff Building will soon be home to a new health clinic according to HCH officials.

A new health clinic is coming soon to Highlands. 

Highlands-Cashiers Hospital CEO Tom Neal announced the opening of the health clinic during a recent teleforum.

The new health clinic is expected to open on the HCH campus sometime in 2021. Neal said the new healthcare educational clinic on the hospital campus will bring additional healthcare service the Highlands-Cashiers community. 

“The clinic will include one physician and will also include a residency program with Mountain Area Health Education Center,” he said. “This is very exciting and we anticipate the clinic starting up next year.” 

The clinic will lease space in the Jane Woodruff Clinic on the HCH grounds. Recruitment efforts are ongoing, Neal said. 

Other highlights of the teleforum touched on how HCH has been able to offer infectious disease services during the pandemic through its tele-health program, services to which most rural communities don’t have access.

“The last two hospitals that I’ve served at, did not have access to an ID doctor, but thanks to our relationship with Mission and HCA, we do have access through telemedicine at Highlands Cashiers Hospital,” he said. 

Neal said the hospital is also looking at how to bring back surgery to Highlands Cashiers Hospital. 

“We are currently recruiting for both a general surgeon and an orthopedic surgeon,” he said. “In addition, we are evaluating other surgeons that may practice at the hospital, including plastic surgery, ophthalmology and OBGYN.” 

Neal also said HCH has worked closely with Highlands and Cashiers community leaders during the COVID-19 coronavirus, working not only to focus on the health and safety of the community, but also the health, safety and continued employment of its staff. 

“Our primary partner has been the health department and our plans are in line with CDC guidance and are supported by the health department,” he said. “However, we do look forward to transitioning from community advising on the coronavirus to promoting other topics of health through activities like seminars and screenings.”

Neal said the hospital’s goal was also to be a good employer for its HCH staff. 

“Our next priority is to be the employer of choice… our primary mission during this pandemic has been to ensure the safety of our people,” he said. “This includes continued access to Personal Protection Equipment, which includes masks and gowns, gloves and face shields. We also want to make sure that our employees are also informed.” 

Neal said keeping the staff employed during the pandemic was as important to HCA as keeping them safe.

“From day one of the Coronavirus, HCA Healthcare has addressed the pandemic with two clear objectives,” he said. “The first, support our people and keep them safe, but also keep them employed so that they can care for our patients during and after the pandemic. The second is to protect the company so that we can continue to serve our communities for years to come.”

Neal said at a time of hundreds of hospitals across the country are laying off and furloughing caregivers, HCA Healthcare has not laid off or furloughed a single caregiver due to the pandemic in nearly 190 hospitals. 

“In fact, we have continued to pay employees for whom we have no work at 70-percent of the base pay,” he said.