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New group on the job at Effingham Hospital ER

POSTED: February 17, 2014 8:07 p.m.
Photo by Paul Floeckher/

Dr. Jay Goldstein speaks during a reception Monday to welcome Georgia Emergency Physician Specialists to Effingham Health System. As of this past weekend, the team of 18 board-certified emergency medicine specialists is staffing the hospital’s emergency room.

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Effingham Health System officially welcomed a team of doctors Monday who will take the hospital to “the next level of care,” according to CEO Norma Jean Morgan.

As of this past weekend, the EHS emergency department is being fully staffed by Georgia Emergency Physician Specialists, a group of board-certified emergency room physicians.

The organization has manned the emergency department at Memorial Health University Medical Center in Savannah for more than a decade, and will now do the same at Effingham Hospital.

“A lot of small hospitals wouldn’t begin to have this level of physician,” Morgan said. “They couldn’t afford it, they don’t have enough volume, and the reason that we really look so attractive to them is because our volume is growing.”

Effingham Hospital’s emergency room has always been staffed by a doctor 24 hours a day, seven days a week, Morgan said. Previously, though, the ER doctors were family practitioners rather than certified emergency medicine specialists.

“I’ve always thought that having the board-certified, well-trained ER physician available rather than the ‘weekender,’ so to speak, was the way to go when it came to hospital admissions and assessing and treating patients,” EHS Dr. John Bennett said at Monday’s reception for the new physicians.

Dr. Jay Goldstein will lead the team of 18 physicians staffing Effingham Hospital’s emergency room. Doctors started working shifts over the weekend.

“The reception that we have felt here from everybody has been overwhelming,” Goldstein said. “It has been unbelievable to us and we feel like we’re at home now, in a sense.”

Hospital administrators, staff and board members pointed out that having board-certified ER physicians available 24/7 is the latest step in Effingham Health System’s growth.

“I can’t say enough about our hospital and the advances that we’ve made in our customer service, and you just add more to that for us,” hospital board chairman Rick Rafter said to the GEPS doctors.

“I know that this is going to turn out to be a great relationship on both sides,” added chief nursing officer Mimi Livingston.

Effingham Health System chief operating officer Tammy Mims knew Goldstein and several of the other GEPS physicians from her days working at Memorial. When EHS planned to elevate its emergency room care, Mims contacted her friend and former colleague.

“I told Mrs. Morgan, if we’re going to make a change, let’s ‘wow,’” Mims said.

Hospital leaders have asserted in recent years that people in Effingham County can have most of their health care needs met at EHS rather than going to Savannah. Having the same emergency physicians on staff that patients would see at Memorial emphasizes that point.

“When you have the same level of physician in this building as you do in other buildings,” Morgan said, “then there should be no reason for patients to be served in another organization if the level of care could be provided here.”

Morgan good-naturedly offered that same directive to Wanda McDuffie, the director of Effingham County EMS, and John Anderson, clinical base supervisor for the Lifestar medical helicopter. She described Effingham Health System as “a better partner today than we have been in the past” for EMS and Lifestar.

“I have been saying to them for a long, long, long time, ‘bring me your patients,’” Morgan said. “Now, publicly in front of God and all of these people, bring me your patients!”

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