Archive For: News

American Red Cross experiencing shortage in donations, calls for donations

Sylva, NC – WestCare reminds blood donors that the American Red Cross is in need of blood and platelet donations of all types in order to supplement a shortage in donations over the last eight weeks.

The Red Cross supplies donated blood products to healthcare organizations, including Harris Regional Hospital and Swain County Hospital, on a regular basis and has seen a decline of approximately 8% in donations during the past 11 weeks. Donations are needed to prevent an emergency shortage and to ensure that blood products are available to patients throughout the remainder of the summer.

All individuals who are eligible to give blood or platelets, especially those with blood types O negative, B negative, and A negative, are encouraged to call 1-800-REDCROSS (1-800-733-2767) or visit to make an appointment to give or to locate a local blood drive.

American Red Cross blood drives are held at both Harris Regional Hospital and Swain County Hospital throughout the year. Visit or the WestCare Facebook page for information on scheduled blood drives and make plans to give.

Mountain Regional Gynecology welcomes physicians, expands to include obstetrics

Megan Metcalf, MD

Megan Metcalf, MD

Clay Smallwood, MD

Clay Smallwood, MD

Mila Bruce, MD

Mila Bruce, MD

Sylva, NC – WestCare Health is pleased to announce the expansion of Mountain Regional Gynecology to include obstetrics.

Mountain Regional OB/GYN, a physician practice employed by WestCare and dedicated to serving the gynecological and obstetrical needs of women in Jackson and surrounding counties, will be located on the third floor of Harris Medical Park in Sylva, adjacent to Harris Regional Hospital, with physicians Clay Smallwood, MD, FACOG, Mila Bruce, MD, JFACOG, and Megan Metcalf, MD, JFACOG, seeing patients beginning in early August.
Dr. Smallwood, who is a Fellow of the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology and is accredited in Advanced Laparoscopy by the Accreditation Council for Obstetrics and Gynecology, has served patients in western North Carolina for 30 years, most recently practicing as the sole physician at Mountain Regional Gynecology, where he has and will continue to focus exclusively on patients’ gynecological needs.
Dr. Smallwood received his medical degree from the Medical College of Georgia in Augusta and completed his internship and residency at the United States Air Force Medical Center at Keesler Air Force Base in Mississippi.
“I welcome Dr. Bruce and Dr. Metcalf to the practice and am happy that they will be offering obstetrical and well as gynecological care,” said Dr. Smallwood. “It is and has been my privilege and passion to serve patients in this community, and I believe that combining our level of skill and experience will broaden access to excellent care for patients in the region.”
Dr. Bruce, who began serving patients locally in 2012, is a Junior Fellow of the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology. Dr. Bruce received her medical degree from St. Matthews University College of Medicine in Grand Cayman, West Indies and completed a residency at the Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center in Shreveport. Bruce is trained in high-risk obstetrics, including treating a variety of situations during pregnancy such as diabetes, hypertensive and endocrine disorders, multi-fetal gestations, cardiac conditions, and advanced maternal age. She also has experience with infertility assessment and treatment and specializes in performing minimally invasive gynecological surgeries.

Dr. Metcalf joins the practice having recently relocated to western North Carolina from Virginia, where she completed a residency in obstetrics and gynecology at Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine. She received her medical degree from the University of Texas Health Science Center and is a Junior Fellow of the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, having also received numerous academic honors including awards for research and the Apple Teaching Award all four years of her residency, with special distinction as the top resident teacher in 2012. Metcalf also speaks Spanish and enjoys conversing with her Spanish-speaking patients.
“Our outstanding team of physicians and nurses, coupled with almost $1 million of investment in new facilities, equipment and technology for the New Generations Family Birthing Center, have positioned us to be the leading provider of women’s services in our region for years to come,” said Steve Heatherly, President and CEO of WestCare.
A longstanding leader in labor and delivery care, Harris Regional Hospital performs over 600 deliveries each year and was recently recognized by the North Carolina Hospital Association as having an early elective delivery rate at or below 1% for the entire year of 2013, meeting a state-wide goal set by the NCHA. An early elective delivery, often through induction or Cesarean section, can lead to complications for the baby, resulting in admissions to neonatal intensive care units, increased length of stay, and higher costs for patients and payers.
In addition to successfully meeting the NCHA’s goal for reducing early elective deliveries, Harris was also ranked second of all North Carolina hospitals for avoiding unnecessary C-section deliveries, according to Consumer Reports data, which is based on C-section rates for mothers who anticipate low-risk delivery and is the largest single source of comparative C-section data for individual hospitals in the country. Harris received the best out of five possible ratings, indicating one of the lowest percentages of unnecessary C-sections out of the state’s 82 hospitals.
“Drs. Smallwood, Bruce, and Metcalf are incredibly skilled physicians and their partnership will undoubtedly increase our efficiency in providing care as well as our outstanding reputation in labor and delivery services,” Heatherly said.

Mountain Regional OB/GYN will occupy Suite 320 at Harris Medical Park. Dr. Billy Noell will continue to provide excellent general surgery care with Paragon Surgical in Suite 310.

For more information or to schedule an appointment, contact the practice at (828) 631-8913.

WestCare LifePath Palliative Care & Hospice seeking volunteers, offering training

Sylva, N.C. – WestCare LifePath Palliative Care & Hospice is seeking volunteers for the LifePath team to assist in supporting patients under palliative care or hospice treatment, and is offering volunteer training sessions beginning in August.
Multiple areas of volunteer opportunity are available, including supporting patients and families in their place of residence, providing administrative support in the LifePath office, assisting with hospice projects, contacting bereaved families to help provide grief support, and providing spiritual care. LifePath volunteers are free to choose how much time they will commit and are given the opportunity to schedule visits with patients at their convenience.
12 hours of training are required for those wishing to volunteer. The next volunteer training sessions will be held Saturday, August 9th from 8:00 a.m.- 4:30 p.m. at the LifePath office, located at 26 WestCare Drive, Suite 301, Sylva.
To sign up for the volunteer training sessions or for more information, contact Lauren Stafford, at 828-631-1702.

WestCare honors 14 employees for service milestones

Sylva, N.C. – WestCare recently held a lunch and ceremony to honor 14 employees for their years of service on the Harris, Swain and Franklin campuses.

The employees were recognized for milestones ranging from five to 35 years and collectively represented 210 years of service to WestCare. Each employee’s manager provided brief words of praise for the staff member before awarding them with a framed certificate.

Employees recognized this quarter were:

5 Years: Josh Crawford, Graphic Designer; Kristyn Holland, Medical Technologist.

10 Years: Mina Bandy, Billing Coordinator; Connie Edmonds, MAP Coordinator, Good Samaritan Clinic; Selina Jones, Medical Laboratory Tech; Shane Szittai, Tech Support Analyst.

15 Years: Stephanie Conner, RN, ICU; Mistee Cutshaw, RN, WNC Pediatric and Adolescent Care; Mary Mahon, Palliative Care Clinical Coordinator.

20 Years: Tina Fisher, Medical Laboratory Tech; Tammy Frady, PERS Coordinator, Home Health; Ronnie Kelly, Clinical Application Analyst; Carrie Winchester, RN, Swain Emergency Department.

35 Years: Vicki Davis, RN, Clinical Coordinator, Recovery Room.

“It’s an honor to recognize the dedication and longstanding service of our staff members who have chosen to work at WestCare. These awards exemplify the commitment of our employees, including our department directors and outstanding physicians,” said Steve Heatherly, WestCare President and CEO. “We thank each of them for providing excellent care for patients and for supporting each other in their roles.”

Service awards luncheons are held quarterly at Harris Regional Hospital.

Swain County Hospital welcomes Stephen Plemmons, BSN, RN as Clinical Nursing Administrator

Stephen Plemmons w

Bryson City, NC – WestCare is pleased to welcome Stephen Plemmons, BSN, RN to the role of Clinical Nursing Administrator at Swain County Hospital.
Plemmons, who brings experience in nursing and emergency care leadership to his new role, has been a nurse for eight years, caring for patients at the bedside and working as an emergency department care team coordinator before serving in his most recent position as Director of Emergency Services at MedWest-Haywood. In his new role, Plemmons will oversee all nursing units at Swain, including inpatient units and the Emergency Department.
“We are thrilled to welcome Stephen to this critical leadership role as he brings ample experience in caring for patients both at the bedside and in emergency situations,” said Anetra Jones, WestCare Chief Nurse Executive. “Our excellent nursing staff at Swain County Hospital will benefit from his leadership as we continue to provide access to quality care for residents of Bryson City and surrounding communities.”
A native of Canton, Plemmons studied biology at UNC-Asheville, going on to receive his associate’s degree in nursing from Haywood Community College and his bachelor’s degree in nursing from Western Carolina University. He is currently pursuing a master’s degree in nursing administration at Western Carolina University.
Plemmons is an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) Intermediate and has been a member of Haywood County EMS since 2006. He is certified as an instructor in basic life support for health care providers, the trauma nurse core course and the emergency nursing pediatric course. In addition, he is certified in advanced cardiovascular life support and pediatric advanced life support.
“I am excited to be bringing my skills and passion for quality care to Swain County Hospital,” said Plemmons. “The staff have been very warm and welcoming and I am enjoying becoming part of the excellent care team we have.”
Stephen has been married to his wife Kendra for seven years and they have two sons, ages five and one.
Swain County Hospital is a 48-bed critical access hospital located in Bryson City, providing emergency, inpatient, primary, and sub-specialty care to residents of Swain and surrounding counties.

WestCare to open primary care clinic in WCU’s Health and Human Sciences Building

WestCare to open primary care clinic in WCU’s Health and Human Sciences Building

CULLOWHEE – WestCare Health will launch a new full-time primary care clinic in the Health and Human Sciences Building on the West Campus of Western Carolina University, with a targeted opening in September.
The clinic is the result of a partnership between the hospital and the university in which access to care will be expanded in the community and educational opportunities will be provided to health sciences students.
A family nurse practitioner will begin seeing patients this fall when the clinic opens and will be joined by a physician recruited to the community specifically for the clinic at WCU. The practice will treat patients ages 16 and older.
Doug Keskula, dean of WCU’s College of Health and Human Sciences, hailed the opening of the clinic as the latest collaborative effort between the college and health care partners to help meet the needs of people from the region while providing students opportunities for hands-on education and faculty members with opportunities for professional practice and research.
“We are excited to welcome the WestCare primary care clinic to the Health and Human Sciences Building at Western Carolina University,” Keskula said. “Through this important partnership, we can provide exceptional health services to our community while supporting the development of a highly skilled health workforce for the future.”
Steve Heatherly, president and CEO of WestCare, said the health care provider serving four counties of Western North Carolina has a tradition of working with WCU to serve the health care needs of the community.

“There is a need for additional access to primary care in our community and we are pleased to serve the residents of southern Jackson County as well as the faculty and staff of Western Carolina University. Serving the educational needs of local health sciences students through clinical rotations is an important feature of the clinic and we are privileged to participate,” said Heatherly.

The clinic will occupy 2,000 square feet within the 160,000-square-foot Health and Human Sciences Building, a state-of-the-art facility dedicated to the critical intersection of health sciences and technology. In December 2013, WestCare opened a rehabilitation and sports medicine clinic in the building. Carolina West Sports Medicine provides care to the community and collaborates clinically with WCU rehabilitation and sports medicine faculty, staff and students. WestCare donated the onsite therapy pool used in treating specific injuries and conditions. The new primary care clinic will be located adjacent to the Carolina West Sports Medicine space.
“WestCare is committed to serving the community through access and education so that local healthcare can be strengthened from both the patient and provider aspects,” Heatherly said. “The clinic at WCU creates an environment for the hospital to partner with the university in improving lives.”
The Health and Human Sciences Building is the first facility to be built on WCU’s West Campus, 344 acres across N.C. Highway 107 from the main campus that were acquired in 2005 as part of the Millennial Initiative. A comprehensive regional economic development strategy, the Millennial Initiative promotes university collaboration with private industry and government partners to enhance hands-on student learning and collaborative research.
Health care has emerged as a point of emphasis for the Millennial Initiative and for the university, said WCU Chancellor David O. Belcher.
“We have long envisioned this building as a place of learning, collaboration and community – a point of intersection between our educational pursuits and our community engagement values,” Belcher said. “Thanks to partnerships such as the one we have with our friends at WestCare, that vision is becoming reality.”
WestCare Health System was formed through a partnership of Harris Regional Hospital and Swain County Hospital in 1997 and serves Jackson, Swain, Macon and Graham counties with primary and subspecialty care, outpatient facilities and urgent care.
Founded in 1889 to bring education and career opportunities to Western North Carolina, Western Carolina University is one of the 16 senior institutions of the University of North Carolina system. WCU enrolls more than 10,100 students in undergraduate and graduate programs of study.

WestCare providing patients with online access to health information

SYLVA, N.C. – WestCare Health is pleased to announce the WestCare Patient Portal launching July 1 which will provide patients with online access to portions of their electronic health record. Through the WestCare Patient Portal, patients will be able to access their lab and imaging test results, medication information, and recent health history.

The WestCare Patient Portal will be readily available to inpatients upon discharge from the hospital and outpatients upon completing their test or procedure following a simple registration process. WestCare staff members are in place to provide education to patients and families about the WestCare Patient Portal and will be available to assist with portal registration immediately after a patient’s hospital stay.

As part of the Affordable Care Act, hospitals around the country are required to provide patients with online access to health information.

“Hospitals must make access available as part of the government model of healthcare but it’s also the right thing to do. The more information a patient has about his or her health, the better informed he or she will be in making decisions about care and in working with us as the hospital providing that care,” said Anetra Jones, Chief Nurse Executive for WestCare.

Those wishing to access the WestCare Patient Portal can do so by providing their email address to a WestCare registrar when they arrive at any WestCare facility. Following their stay or procedure, patients will receive an email and basic instructions for registering, which includes creating a username and password.

The WestCare Patient Portal is secure, providing password protection so that only the registered individual may access their medical records. The portal will provide information on patient visits after July 1. Medical data prior to July 1, 2014 will not be available on the portal.

Further information and printed instruction materials about the WestCare Patient Portal will be available for patients and family members during the registration process, at any time during a patient’s stay, and at discharge. Ongoing support for the WestCare Patient Portal will also be provided through a technical helpline and the Patient Relations office at 586-7780.

16th Annual “Spirit of the Smokies” Car Show held at Harris Regional Hospital June 7th

Sylva, N.C. – Harris Regional Hospital’s cardiopulmonary rehabilitation department, in partnership with the WestCare Foundation, held the 16th Annual “Spirit of the Smokies” Car Show on Saturday, June 7th.

Proceeds from the annual event are used to purchase equipment for the cardiopulmonary rehabilitation department at Harris Regional Hospital. Cardiologist Earl Haddock, MD has championed the event for many years.

This year’s generous event sponsors included All Care Clinical Associates, Western Builders of Sylva, Andy Shaw Ford, Bowers Lawn Care, Jackson County Chamber of Commerce, and Reece, Noland, and McElrath Engineers.

92 cars were registered at the all-day event, which included a cookout lunch, 50/50 contest, raffle drawings, and awards.
Representatives from the Jackson County Sheriff’s Department and Sylva Police Department attended to select the winner of the Law Enforcement Award, and representatives from Andy Shaw Ford attended to select the winner of the Dealer’s Choice Award. Awards were also given in the categories of People’s Choice and Best of Show.

This year’s winners included:
Best of Show – Robert Anders, 1954 Mack LJ
People’s Choice – Leon Queen, 1968 Ford Ranger Pick-Up
Dealer’s Choice – James Hamlin, 2003 Ford Mustang
Law Enforcement – John Waldroop, 1971 Chevrolet Nova (not pictured)

Harris Regional Hospital’s cardiopulmonary rehabilitation department provides therapy that is centered around helping cardiology patients learn to modify and control risk factors and maintain optimal health.

WestCare Health welcomes Dr. Gregory Brown to Western Carolina Pulmonary and Sleep Consultants

Sylva – WestCare Health is pleased to welcome Gregory Brown, MD to Western Carolina Pulmonary and Sleep Consultants. Dr. Brown will join Dr. Angela Connaughton in providing pulmonary and critical care to patients in the region with offices in Sylva, Bryson City and Franklin. Dr. Beth Bailey and family nurse practitioner Jodie Wade provide sleep services. Dr. Brown began seeing patients on June 9th.

Dr. Brown completed a fellowship in pulmonary and critical care at the University of Iowa Hospital & Clinics. He received his medical degree from the Ohio State University College of Medicine where he also completed an internship and residency. Dr. Brown has practiced in Chambersburg, Penn. for the last 22 years. Dr. Brown holds certification in both pulmonary disease and critical care medicine from the American Board of Internal Medicine. He is a fellow in the American College of Chest Physicians and has held numerous physician leadership positions throughout his medical career.

Dr. Brown and his wife Rebby have four grown children and have relocated to the area. Western Carolina Pulmonary and Sleep Consultants is located on the campus of Harris Regional Hospital directly behind the hospital. To reach Western Carolina Pulmonary and Sleep Consultants call 586-7994 or visit

Harris Regional Hospital partners with Southwestern Community College for unique intern program Project SEARCH®

Sylva, NC – Harris Regional Hospital will soon provide internship opportunities through Project SEARCH®, a national non-profit program which partners with businesses to create internships for young adults with disabilities. Southwestern Community College implemented Project SEARCH® in Jackson County and will partner with Harris Regional Hospital and several other local organizations to place interns beginning this fall.
Based in Cincinnati, Ohio, Project Search® allows men and women ages 18-30 with disabilities to gain marketable and transferrable employability skills through the implementation of hands-on work experience during a series of three separate, 10-week internships matched to their individual interests, strengths, and abilities. The nationwide program collaborates with many types of organizations; local Project SEARCH® partners will include the NC Division of Vocational Rehabilitation, Vocational Opportunities of Cherokee, and Smoky Mountain Center – Local Management Entity/Managed Care Organization in addition to Harris Regional Hospital. Thanks to this program and its partnered businesses, these former students can make successful transitions from school into sustainable employment.
Six to eight Project SEARCH® interns will begin working at Harris Regional Hospital in the fall of this year. Southwestern Community College is currently recruiting individuals for these positions.
“We are thrilled to partner with SCC for such an important initiative as Project SEARCH®,” said Anetra Jones, WestCare Chief Nurse Executive. “Providing quality healthcare includes promoting an atmosphere of learning and development. This program provides the perfect platform to do so.”
As a community leader in providing quality education and aiding local programs and services, Southwestern Community College will be on-site in various departments at Harris, providing job coaching and teaching employability skills throughout the intern process.
“SCC is excited to partner with Project SEARCH® to secure competitive employment for people with disabilities in our western North Carolina communities,” said Danielle Chambless, SCC Project SEARCH® Job Coach. “Creating strong partnerships with local organizations will help make this program a success.”
An informational meeting for community partners, families, and possible recruits will be held on campus at SCC on Tuesday, July 8 at 5:30 p.m.
For more information on WestCare’s Project SEARCH® program, contact Christy Reagan, RN, BSN, CPN, Clinical Education Specialist at 828-586-7886. To learn more about the information meeting, partnering with Project SEARCH®, or recruiting interns, contact Danielle Chambless, SCC Career Readiness Instructor/Job Coach at 828-306-7036 or Devonne Jimison, local Project SEARCH® instructor at 828-339-4486.