June 12-- Toombs County is one of six in the state to be named a "County of Distinction" by the Association County Commissioners of Georgia (ACCG).
Ross King is the Association's Executive Director and says the choice was made based on the community's vision to provide quality healthcare in rural Georgia.
"You have outstanding local leadership and attentiveness to critical issues such as healthcare. You've got a regional pulse and a consistency that's going on. I've been in this business for 30 years with the ACCG and I've always known of the heartbeat which exists in your part of the state. You should take great pride. It's not something that is easily earned and certainly it's challenging to maintain it over an extended period of time, but it has happened in your region and for that reason you should be very proud," he said.
The six "Counties of Distinction" were highlighted in the June edition of Georgia Trend magazine and spotlighted Toombs County because of the success of Meadows Regional Medical Center in Vidalia.
Meadows CEO Alan Kent says, "A lot things that have happened here with regard to healthcare I don't believe could have happened in any other community. They happened because we have a very engaged community with great leadership at the elected level, at the appointed level, at the volunteer level, at the business level and at church and civic clubs.
"I think what we do in the hospital is just an integrated part of that. We have such a fertile environment that the things that need to happen in healthcare have just found a good home in Toombs County to be able to flourish. I really think those things don't happen in the average rural community."
The other five counties chosen by ACCG include Augusta-Richmond County for the national cyber security initiative at Fort Gordon, Fulton County for transportation investments, Muscogee County for court system reforms, Oglethorpe County for dollars saved with self-paving projects and DeKalb County for homeless veterans assistance.
Excerpt from Georgia Trend Magazine, June 2017
Vision Becomes Reality
At a time when demographics and healthcare economics are stressing Georgia’s rural hospitals, Vidalia’s Meadows Regional Medical Center (MRMC) is in a spot as sweet as the region’s famous onions. The roots of success for Toombs County’s nonprofit and self-funded hospital stretch back to 2000.
That’s when Meadows took a different approach from the typical rural hospital focus on primary care and began emphasizing specialty medicine. Since then, Meadows’ medical system, which includes a cancer center and outpatient facilities, leapt to 1,100 employees from 376. Its 57 beds now average more than 80 percent occupancy, its ER treats 35,000-plus patients a year and the staff delivers almost 900 babies annually, according to President and CEO Alan Kent.
“If we’ve had a visionary idea, it’s been to have a more regional than local focus,” says Kent. “We are more remote from a tertiary care [highly specialized] hospital than most of the state. So, we tried to step into that gap.”
Meadows did that by becoming what Kent believes is Georgia’s smallest hospital providing a cardiac catheterization lab, medical and surgical specialties and maternal and pediatric services. As a result, Meadows, the only accredited hospital in Montgomery, Toombs, Treutlen and Tattnall counties, routinely recruits doctors from medical schools such as Emory, Vanderbilt and Dartmouth who want to practice their specialty without big-city hassles.
Meadows didn’t travel the path to success alone. “The biggest thing we’ve done is we’ve been a community-based organization,” says Kent. “When recruiting doctors and growing a hospital, it’s a community event. And we have a very engaged community with outstanding leadership that extends way beyond the hospital.” That community, he emphasizes, includes elected and appointed officials and business, civic and church leaders.
The hospital’s success has numerous local benefits, says Toombs County Manager John Jones. “As one of the largest employers, MRMC provides residents an opportunity for a career in the medical field with pay above the local norm. In addition, our residents are provided a higher level of care that otherwise would require lengthy travel.”