Candler County Hospital entrance sign

“Candler County Hospital strives to be the anchor of Metter and Candler County when it comes to being the first choice for healthcare services,” said Candler County Hospital CEO Michael Purvis. This commitment has held firm throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“Since we opened the Incident Command Center on March 23, 2020, we have remained committed to providing safe, efficient care for our patients,” Purvis said. “Thankfully, we were able to open our administrative wing back up on May 5, 2020. And on Monday, May 11, 2020, we reopened our front entrance from 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. to the hospital, with each patient and visitor receiving a wellness check. We are checking temperatures and ask that you limit one well visitor per medical inpatient.”

Thus far, Candler County Hospital has not experienced an in-patient that has tested positive for COVID-19.  

“The staff has done an outstanding job in keeping the work environment sanitized and disinfected,” Purvis continues. He added, “The management team came together and implemented our pandemic disaster plan; we also purchased a metal storage building that was outfitted with internet, exam chairs and a ventilation system that will exhaust the air every three minutes.  

“The plan would be to convert the building to a triage station for the Emergency Department in the event of a surge.  Through the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ 1135 waiver, we may also leverage telemedicine in the event of a COVID-19 surge so we could have the Emergency Room physician conduct the medical emergency screening and render care through telemedicine to help limit the infected patient(s) exposure to our physician.  

“Presently, our Emergency Room visits are down by 60 percent and we have not had to open our triage station located outside of the Emergency Department due to the lack of patients visiting with COVID-19 signs and symptoms.” 

“While Candler County Hospital is prepared for the worst, the citizens of Candler County have done an exemplary job with the historical shelter-in-place orders,” Purvis said. “Our community answered the challenge early on and our great folks positioned us for a strong recovery.”

Dr. Chad Slaughter, CCH Emergency Department Medical Director, suggests, “Through taking decisive action by our community stakeholders, we believe we have positioned Candler County in a strong position to recover and get back to our new normal quicker than most communities around us.  

“We are seeing about 200 less patients per month in the ED, so we understand our community has heeded public warnings to flatten the curve. We appreciate everyone helping to protect our rural hospital during these unprecedented times.  

“We feel the community may begin to utilize the ER and Rural Health Clinic - Candler Medical Group, as proper safety precautions are in place to ensure the public’s safety.”  

Many experts predict that patients that have avoided medical care may have underlying medical conditions that need to be addressed sooner rather than later.

Dr. Chip Cowart, Chief of Staff, Candler County Hospital, declares, “Our staff at Candler Medical Group and the Gastroenterology Clinic, led by Dr. Patrick Dorvilus, have done exceptionally well leveraging phone and telemedicine visits, which may be scheduled at both locations, to preserve our patients’ access to quality healthcare services during the pandemic.  

“We have established a well-side and a sick-side to our Rural Health Clinic at Candler Medical Group, a service of Candler County Hospital, and if a patient is actively running a fever, we may provide the clinic visit in their vehicle. 

“Our visits are down about 600 visits in April; we want to be certain that our community understands we have options that will help keep you and your family safe so that you can continue to seek the healthcare services needed in a small, rural community like Metter.”

April marked the first month in six consecutive months that Candler County Hospital performed worse when compared with the Hospital Authority of Candler County’s approved budget and prior year financial performance.  

Purvis recounts, “Until the COVID-19 pandemic, CCH was on a six-month consecutive streak of posting positive financial numbers. It is vital that our patients know that we are ready to exceed their healthcare needs, and we most certainly need them to utilize our local services when they are in need for routine, elective, urgent and emergent care.”  

Candler County Hospital and Candler Medical Group welcomed Dr. Mike Williams, General Surgery, on April 1.  

Dr. Williams comes to Metter from the Vidalia area. Dr. Cowart said, “We are excited for Dr. Williams to get started on scheduled procedures; until recently, he was only allowed to operate on medically urgent conditions.”  

Dr. Williams has over 25 years of experience as a General Surgeon. Patients may schedule a clinic visit to see Dr. Mike Williams at Candler Medical Group at 912-685-5715, press #1. 

Dr. Erin Tanner, CCH Medical Director for Hospitalist Services, emphasizes, “We want our community to know we appreciate the various prayer messages, t-shirts, and meals given in support of our hospital staff.  Wait times are minimal in our Emergency and Urgent Care Departments.  We want our community to know that we are open, ready to serve.”  

Dr. Chip Cowart summarizes, “We have been extremely cautious and vigilant in our pandemic response and planning. We hope to see our patients begin to call and schedule appointments or utilize the Urgent Care offering at the Rural Health Clinic. We are all in this together and we are excited to return to more normalized operations.”

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