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Highlands-Cashiers Hospital to debut new operating rooms and welcomes new surgeons

Written by Highlands-Cashiers Hospital CEO Tom Neal

As Highlands-Cashiers Hospital continues to evolve, I realize that growth doesn’t just happen as a result of expanding a facility’s square footage, recruiting new physicians and staff, enhancing services, supporting staff in their efforts to gain education and skills, acquiring the most state-of-the-art medical technology, or engaging our community. We advance as an institution because of all these things and more.

Reimagining and restarting a service that has been dormant for a time constitutes another important type of growth that reflects our commitment to serve the healthcare needs of this community. We have done just this by reopening our Operating Rooms, which have been closed for more than five years.

It’s an exciting development for community members and the hospital because the shift will mean that you can access more care closer to home. The first surgical procedures we will be performing will be orthopedic and general surgery. We will limit services to low- risk outpatient surgical procedures, often called same day procedures. This means you will have your procedure and be able to go home the same day. Some examples of orthopedic procedures include joint replacements and repairing repetitive stress injuries, such as carpal tunnel syndrome, as well as remedying sports and traumatic injuries. We will also initially offer routine general surgical procedures, such as hernia repairs, and resuming routine colonoscopies.

We’ve invested significant time and capital in our ORs, preparing them to serve you, and assuring they comply with or exceed the best practice standards. For example, we will have the capability to perform minimally invasive surgery, which offers significant advantages for the patient, like faster healing, reduced pain, and less scarring and blood loss. This is because the surgeons needs to make only a couple very small incisions, rather than larger ones, as in traditional open surgery. In addition, our lighting and other technology allow the surgical team members to more efficiently communicate with each other in real time as procedures are happening.

In addition to making surgical equipment improvements that make the patient and clinician experience better, we have invested in bringing the surgical suite into compliance with the most current regulatory requirements and industry standards. Examples would include investment in automated medication management systems, and continuous monitoring of temperature, humidity, and air quality — all essential to assure a safe environment for our patients. Critical support from HCA Healthcare allowed us to execute this project. This support included capital, access to experts in the field, and recruitment of our new surgeons.

The doors of our new ORs are scheduled to open this summer, and I’m pleased to introduce our new General Surgeon into the HCH family, Dr. John Bishop. He comes to the Plateau from serving patients and families at Gunnison Valley Hospital, in Gunnison, Colorado. A graduate of the Loma Linda School of Medicine, Dr. Bishop is highly skilled in many general surgery procedures, and has extensive experience with performing minimally invasive surgery. We’re very happy to have Dr. Bishop with us and I’m certain the community will benefit from his skills, knowledge, and compassion. He is now accepting new patients, and his first official day with us is July 28 the . Community members can call 828-369-4402 to schedule an appointment with him.

Accomplished orthopedic surgeon Dr. Gregory Crawley joined us this past January. He practiced for years in the northern Atlanta suburbs, and is proud to be delivering advanced care that’s customized to each patient’s unique needs. Dr. Crawley has much expertise in performing minimally invasive knee arthroscopy, as well as carpal tunnel syndrome and trigger finger release surgery.

We are also fortunate to welcome a dedicated and enthusiastic primary care Physician Assistant, Allison Litchfield, MPAS, PA-C. Allison will practice primary care at the Cashiers branch of Mission Community Primary Care. An Atlanta area native, Allison graduated from Gardner-Webb University with her Master of Physician Assistant Studies in the midst of the pandemic — May, 2020 — and worked in Asheville for eight months before coming to the Plateau. Her love of both medicine and people combine to make her a valuable caregiver to our community, who prioritizes building lasting relationships with her patients.

The talented surgeons I introduced earlier, and our excellent OR staff are who will make the OR come alive. Without their expertise and dedication to our patients, the OR would be just an impressively appointed room. It’s the combination of their clinical gifts and the tools present in our OR that make for an even better patient experience and recovery.

Tom Neal, RN, MBA, MHA, is the Chief Executive Officer and Chief Nursing Officer (CNO) of Highlands- Cashiers Hospital. Neal is a proven leader with more than 30 years of progressive healthcare experience. Prior to his role at Highlands-Cashiers Hospital, he held the position of Chief Executive Officer of Community Health Systems (CHS) and served as Chief Executive Officer  of both Berwick Hospital Center in Berwick, Pennsylvania, and Greenbrier Valley Medical Center, Ronceverte, West Virginia. Tom has an MBA from the University of Louisville, MHA from the California College of Health Sciences, BSN from Regents College of New York and an ADN from Jefferson Community College.

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