Greg Nichols (on the left), administrator for EAMC-Lanier Hospital in Valley, talked about some future plans for the hospital at Wednesday’s noon hour meeting of the Kiwanis Club of Valley. He also discussed some possible changes in health care that might be coming due to legislation that’s pending before Congress. Nichols is shown above with Ryan Earnest (at center), EAMC-Lanier emergency room manager and program chairman and at right, Jeff Goodwin, club president. (Photo by Wayne Clark)
By WAYNE CLARK
VALLEY — EAMC-Lanier Hospital Administrator Greg Nichols talked about some of the recent successes and some future challenges that need to be met.
“We are going to continue serving this community for many years to come,” he told members of the Kiwanis Club of Valley during the club’s noon hour meeting on Wednesday.
One of EAMC-Lanier’s recent successes is the inpatient rehab unit, which opened this past fall. Dr. Fred Aziz, who directs the unit, was last week’s speaker for the club.
The new unit has the capability of meeting the needs of up to 17 patients at a time. It began Oct. 1 with 19 employees. Six more have been added since then.
Nichols said that people from throughout east central Alabama and west central Georgia have been coming to the new unit for treatment. Each person has their own unique needs, and the staff is trained to help them on that basis.
Another major success for EAMC-Lanier involves a major upgrade in electronic record keeping. As the result of a $13 million investment, the medical records of both the East Alabama Medical Center in Opelika and EAMC-Lanier in Valley are readily accessible for any authorized person who needs to see them. It’s a much, much faster way of doing it than it used to be and greatly helps in the treatment of patients.
There are new computers and a new wireless structure that went into this. “It’s a benefit to our patients and the community, and we know it’s a benefit to our organization,” Nichols said.
The radiology department and the emergency room have been combined. “We have a continuity of care in both departments,” Nichols explained.
Nichols said the greatest future challenges for hospitals will involve reimbursement. Legislation before Congress (if it ever passes) will change the way things are being done. “I would be a fool to tell you I know everything about it,” Nichols said.
The proposed American Health Care Act was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives on March 6. Within one week, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) scored it with both some good results and some not so good. On the plus side, the legislation if passed and signed into law would reduce the federal budget deficit by an estimated $337 billion over 10 years. On the down side, according to the CBO, an estimated 14 million Americans who are now insured by the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) would lose that coverage the first year under the new law with 24 million losing out over 10 years.
Some proposed changes in Medicaid could have a deeper impact as well. Some conservative Republicans want Obamacare and Medicaid expansion totally repealed; moderates aren’t on board with that. There’s also a matter of spelling out how the proposed tax credits in the bill can be used. Critics on the left have dire warnings of how people could be scammed with fake coverage by them.
Nichols said that much is changing with the proposed legislation on a daily basis. “It’s now more generous for the elderly and the disabled than it was before,” he said. “The states will be given more freedom with Medicaid than before but there will be less money.”
The bill will need 216 votes to pass the House. If it does, it will go to the U.S. Senate, where the Republicans have a much smaller advantage. It’s highly unlikely that any bill that could pass the House will be approved by the Senate without some major changes.
“I really don’t know at this time what impact any new legislation will have on our community or our hospital,” Nichols said. “President Trump made a campaign promise to end Obamacare, and he has to do it in some way.”
If what some people are calling Trumpcare passes, it will almost certainly mean that Alabama’s insured rate, which has been getting better under the ACA, will be going down again.
One possible outcome that would have a very negative impact on the state is to cap Medicaid spending at its current level. That’s an estimated $4,000 per person. Rhode Island right now spends around $9,000 per person. Capping it at those levels would mean that some states would get disproportionately more money.
“That would not be fair to Alabama,” Nichols said. “There’s a lot of uncertainty about what will happen. One thing that’s certain is that we are getting older in this state and are living longer. We need to be able to better treat chronic illnesses for those who are living longer.”
Something else that needs to be addressed is the treatment of people who have drug and/or alcohol addiction. More than 600 people suffering from this were treated at EAMC-Lanier last year, well more than enough to justify a detox unit.
Nichols said that EAMC-Lanier officials are looking at having a 10-bed unit under a physician’s supervision. “We hope to open it in several months,” he said. “Our community needs this.”
Nichols said that EAMC-Lanier’s emergency room would be getting some renovations designed to improve the patient flow. There will also be some improvements in the dietary area. “We will be spending five to six million dollars over the next several years,” he said.
A major project on the way at EAMC in Opelika is a new cancer treatment center. This is a $25-30 million project to have a fee-standing building separate from the present hospital.
“We want to be more efficient in the way we deliver care in this community,” Nichols said. “We want to do it in the right time and in the right place. We’re glad to have Urgent Care here. It allows us to concentrate on primary care.”
Nichols said that he’s been asked the hypothetical question that if he had a magic wand and could accomplish something that’s needed in the local community what would that be? “I’d like to see us have a more engaged community,” he said. “I would like to see a lot more people active in civic clubs and in school programs.”
He thanked Chambers County voters for their support in passing an ad valorem tax increase to benefit the hospital several years ago. “That helped us a lot,” he said. “It allowed us to purchase some new equipment, something we need to help meet the challenges of the future.”
BY DAVID BELL
WEST POINT — A new business development and visitor center officially opened Thursday in West Point with a ribbon cutting ceremony attended by government officials, business leaders and educators.
The facility, located at 707 Third Ave., will promote tourism throughout the area and provide assistance for new business development in West Point.
The center was created under a partnership between the West Point Development Authority and the LaGrange-Troup County Chamber of Commerce.
“For the past eight years, we’ve been working to make this a reality,” said Page Estes, president of the LaGrange-Troup County Chamber of Commerce. “It was the last piece of the puzzle to forever tie Hogansville, LaGrange and West Point together under one umbrella as we continue marketing all of Troup County for future growth and development.”
“This will be a location where visitors can come and receive information about shopping, dining, entertainment and leisure activities in our area. We will also have a small business development consultant on staff to assist future entrepreneurs with new business opportunities,” added Meghan Duke, economic development director for the City of West Point.
Brittany Simmons, who formerly worked at the Georgia Information and Visitor Center at the state line on I-85, will serve as the new center manager.
By DAVID BELL
LANETT — Investigators with the Lanett Police Department have made an arrest in connection with a shooting incident Wednesday that left a man critically wounded.
According to a statement released by Chief Angie Spates, officers responded to a shooting in the 2300 block of 30th Street SW. Upon arrival they found Kevin Morgan, 48, of Lanett inside the residence suffering from a gunshot wound.
Morgan was transported by ambulance to Lanett High School, where he was airlifted to an undisclosed hospital for treatment. At last report he was listed in critical condition.
The man originally described as a person of interest in the case has been arrested and charged with attempted murder. Dervoski Morgan, 26, of Lanett turned himself in to police Thursday afternoon, and is currently being held in the Chambers County Detention Facility.
Authorities are continuing their investigation of the incident.
By Scott Sickler
Times-News Sports Editor
LANETT — It was a memorable evening for the Springwood baseball and softball teams Thursday as the Wildcats prevailed over the rival Chambers Academy Rebels in varsity as well as junior contests here at Founders’ Fields.
Coach Jason Walls’ baseball Wildcats (8-6) posted a 4-3 win over coach Matt Smith’s Rebels (11-5) in the varsity contest.
Senior righthander Noah West earned the win on the mound for Springwood with a fine effort.
West worked all seven innings, scattered just four hits, allowed three runs (none earned) and struck out six.
“We couldn't have asked for a better pitching performance from Noah,” Walls said. “He's a great competitor and it showed tonight. I thought our defense was solid all around as well. Jon Jon Davis and Cameron Hopkin both had big catches in the outfield while Preston Messer had several big stops at third base. Everyone contributed in the win.”
Springwood had 10 hits in the win.
Andrue Davis and brother Jon Jon each had two hits while Dylan Anderson, Cam Hopkin, Louis Morrison, Harrison Spivey, Grant Easterwood and Preston Messer all had one hit.
•In the softball game, coach Alex Bryant’s Lady Wildcats posted an 8-0 win.
Megan Parton, Emma Jennings, Maddie Johnson and Rachel Remmel led the Lady Wildcats offense combining for nine hits.
Emma Jennings was the starting and winning pitcher in the circle.
Jennings chalked up nine strikeouts and has 79 on the season, Bryant noted.
Springwood also won the junior varsity game by a 7-6 score.
By Scott Sickler
Times-News Sports Editor
LANETT — The Springwood Wildcats baseball team dropped to 7-6 on the season Tuesday after falling to rival Lee-Scott 13-11 in 10 innings here at Founders’ Fields.
Grant Easterwood was the starter for coach Jason Walls’ Wildcats in working four innings, allowed six hits, struck out five and gave up three earned runs.
Jon Jon Davis, Noah West, Dylan Anderson and Andrue Davis all saw action in relief of Easterwood, Walls noted.
“Overall, our pitchers threw well,” Walls said. “Easterwood had another quality start for us. Every time Grant gets on the mound, we know he's going to throw a lot of strikes — he's proven that. Noah had a great inning in relief, throwing just six pitches as well.”
Despite the loss, Springwood banged out a season-high 20 hits, including four doubles in the loss.
“Chandlor Champion, Davis, Anderson and West led the offense with three hits each,” said Walls. “Cam Hopkin, Easterwood and Davis all had two hits while Harrison Spivey and Preston Messer each tallied one. Anderson had two doubles while West and Davis each had one.”
It was a tough loss, particularly after a 20-hit explosion, but Walls says the team can take a lot of positives from the game.
“I was very pleased with our offensive efforts,” Walls noted. “The majority of our runs were two-out hits. There's a lot of positives from the game as well as things we need to work on. Overall, I thought our guys played well enough to win, we just have to tip our caps to Lee Scott.”
•In other high school baseball, the Chambers Academy Rebels (11-4, 5-1) defeated East Memorial Christian Academy (EMCA) 12-2 in a region doubleheader Monday.
Dalton Thrower picked up the win for coach Matt Smith’s Rebels in working 4.2 innings, scattered just two hits and gave up two earned runs.
Nick Harmon worked 1.1 innings for the save in the six-inning, mercy rule game.
Offensively, Hunter Davis, Jordan Gillespie and Hayden Thompson all had two hits and two RBIs each.
“We didn't play our best baseball but anytime you can pick up two wins in the region, that’s a positive,” Smith noted. “Our pitching continues to be our strong point. There is a lot of potential for this team to be good but we must be more consistent with our hitting in order to do so.”
It’s been a very successful season for the Wildcats and Rebels baseball teams this spring and should be a terrific matchup at Founders’ Fields today in twinbill action.
The varsity game will take place at 6:30 p.m. while first pitch for junior varsity will be 4:30 p.m. ET.
By Scott Sickler
Times-News Sports Editor
FAIRFAX — For nine-year-old Fairfax Elementary School studentD’Maurion Dunn, it’s tough to top the excitement of being a three-time gold medal Taekwondo champion in martial arts.
The local youngster was one of 32 local participants out of Dragotta’s Martial Arts in Valley who recently competed at a martial arts competition in Centerville, Ga.
Dunn and other teammates not only competed but returned home as champions and the best of their respective age group in a number of martial arts disciplines.
Dunn earned golds in three categories — forms, sparring and board breaks.
Already an orange belt, Dunn began his martial arts training only eight months ago and has a bright future ahead.