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Harris Regional & Swain County Hospitals honor 16 employees for service milestones

Sylva, N.C. – A lunch ceremony was recently held at Harris Regional Hospital honor 13 employees for their years of service on the Harris, Swain and Franklin campuses.

The employees were recognized for milestones ranging from five to 30 years and collectively represented 190 years of service to the hospitals and associated physician practices. 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: Jackie Awtrey, patient registrar; Susie Blackwell, patient registrar; Tiffany Councill, Nurse Practitioner, Mountain GI Associates; Amie Gainor, medical office assistant, WNC Pulmonary; Jen Murray, food and nutrition supervisor; Ryan Slechta, MD, Sylva Orthopaedic Associates.

10 Years: Amy Hedden, RN, Harris orthopaedics unit; Mary Curtis McCracken, sports medicine and rehabilitation manager; Loretta Sequoyah, mammography technician; Lori Yerse, RN, director, Harris Wound Healing and Hyperbaric Center.

15 Years: Darlene Brooks, CT technician, Harris imaging; Carol Hood, medical office assistant, Center for Family Medicine – Franklin.

20 Years: Elizabeth Dixon, MD, Sylva Medical Center; Stephanie Sutton, Harris grill cook/cashier; Marcell Woodard, medical office assistant, Sylva Medical Center.

30 Years: Rita Moss, Nurse Practitioner, Harris hospitalist program.

“It’s an honor to recognize the dedication and longstanding service of our staff members,” said Steve Heatherly, president and CEO, Harris Regional and Swain County Hospitals.  “These awards exemplify the commitment of outstanding staff members who represent multiple areas of discipline within our facilities, all contributing to the unified goal of a world-class patient and family experience.”

Service awards luncheons are held quarterly at Harris Regional Hospital.

Harris Regional Hospital to host special evening event focused on diabetes awareness, prevention, and treatment Tuesday, November 4

Sylva, NC – Harris Regional Hospital will host the November “Tuesdays to Thrive” session focused around diabetes awareness, prevention, and treatment as part of a year-long series of wellness events in partnership with Jackson County Department of Public Health. The event is open to the public and will take place on Tuesday, November 4 from 6-7 p.m. in the main lobby of Harris Regional Hospital.

A panel of experts consisting of wound care specialist Nancy Peneff, NP, Harris Regional Hospital Diabetes Educator Melanie Batchelor, MHS, RD, LDN, CDE, and Jackson County Department of Public Health Diabetes Educator Lee Lillard, MHS, RD, LDN, CDE, will weigh in on the best ways to prevent, treat, and manage diabetes and will answer questions.

The hour-long event is free and open to the public. Free blood glucose screenings accompanied by a professional assessment will be available for the first thirty attendees. In addition, those attending will have an opportunity to complete an American Diabetes Association risk assessment based on lifestyle and genetic factors, as well as learn more about nutrition and exercise as they relate to diabetes.

Harris Regional Hospital Diabetes Educator Melanie Batchelor also provides one-on-one consultation with diabetic patients. Education sessions are typically one hour and focus on specific questions of the individual to enhance self-management of diabetes. Most insurance carriers reimburse for the service, with a signed physician referral. Melanie will be available at the event to schedule sessions with anyone who is interested.

Refreshments and door prizes will be available during the event. No reservations are necessary.

Tuesdays to Thrive is a series of events held the first Tuesday of each month in the main lobby at Harris Regional Hospital from 6-7pm. Each event is focused around learning valuable information, preventative tips, and evidence-based practices about important and timely health topics like diabetes, breast health, asthma and allergies, cancer prevention, healthy eating, and more.

A full calendar of Tuesdays to Thrive events and more information on November’s event can be found at For more information on diabetes consultations, call Melanie Batchelor at 828-586-7734.

Safe driving program “VIP for a VIP” impacts students in partnership with EMS and local law enforcement

Sylva, N.C. – Harris Regional Hospital provides Emergency Medical Services for Jackson County and was pleased last week to participate in a safe driving program for students. “Vehicle Injury Prevention for a Very Important Person”, a program targeted toward young adults, visited Smoky Mountain High School on Thursday, October 9. The Guilford County-based program partnered with local law enforcement, fire departments, and rescue organizations, including Harris Regional Hospital EMS, to present an informative and moving program to young drivers in an effort to promote motor vehicle safety and prevent fatal accidents.

EMS Training Officer Zach Stutts spoke to students during a morning session of the program on Thursday about the hazards of driving while texting or driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Stutts, along with a panel of law enforcement and rescue personnel, encouraged students to consider all risks associated with unsafe driving habits and presented facts and figures directly related to fatalities of young drivers in North Carolina during the last several years.

The afternoon session of “VIP for a VIP” was held outside and involved a dramatic, real-time reenactment of a vehicle accident involving a teenager exactly as it might happen. The reenactment gave students a look into the perspective of all those who would be involved, including a nearby pedestrian, first responders, law enforcement, highway patrol, emergency medical care workers, and the driver’s parents and friends.

EMS Director Steven Rice participated in the reenactment as an Emergency Medical Technician arriving on the scene of the wreck, along with Stutts.

“As those involved in emergency situations involving vehicles on a daily basis, we want to do everything possible to educate our community, especially young people, about the hazards and consequences of unsafe driving habits,” Rice said. “While we are dedicated to being there as quickly as possible when something happens, our greatest desire is that we don’t get the call in the first place. Programs like “VIP for a VIP” help to ensure that.”

Following the program, students were asked to complete and sign two contracts, one commiting to a “zero tolerance” for drugs and alcohol, and one entitled “VIP contract for the life of a VIP”, with which, by signing, students promised to abide by certain safety measures to ensure welfare while operating a vehicle.

“Our Emergency Medical Services team is highly trained to respond to motor vehicle accidents and work quickly to provide care for those involved, but it is our hope that accidents are prevented at all costs,” said Anetra Jones, Harris Regional Hospital and Swain County Hospital Chief Nurse Executive. “We were honored to participate in this program and to play a role in the prevention of potential accidents.”

“VIP for a VIP” is dedicated to students who have lost their lives in vehicle accidents, believing that through young adult driver safety programs and strong community support, young adult traffic fatalities can be reduced.

Harris Regional Hospital EMS provides emergency care in Jackson and surrounding counties. For more information on EMS services,

Harris Regional Hospital and Swain County Hospital prepared for Ebola

Harris Regional Hospital and Swain County Hospital are working closely with the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to ensure our hospitals are prepared with the appropriate plans to detect, protect and respond should anyone in our community contract or be exposed to the Ebola virus.  While we have not treated any patients with Ebola at our hospitals, and there have been no confirmed cases in North Carolina, Harris Regional Hospital and Swain County Hospital have taken the following measures to prepare:

*         Triage and admission assessments have been revised to include questions regarding travel to high risk areas, as well as recent contact with people from those areas.
*         Notices have been placed at entrances asking anyone who has a fever and has traveled outside the country, or who has had exposure to an international traveler to notify staff.
*         Dedicated isolation rooms have been designated for patients who may have been exposed to Ebola and protective gear has been provided for our employees.

Staff members at Harris Regional Hospital and Swain County Hospital are taking additional preparedness steps by participating in a drill exercise focused on the hospitals’ response in the event Ebola becomes present in our community. Staff members are also joining regional training sessions on specific precautionary safety measures related to treatment.

“Ongoing readiness is part of our culture of safety at Harris Regional Hospital and Swain County Hospital regardless of the issue or potential threat. We are monitoring the Ebola outbreak on a daily basis and are aligned with national, state and local resources in our preparedness planning,” said Steve Heatherly, president and CEO of Harris Regional Hospital and Swain County Hospital.

“Our staff is trained and prepared to manage outbreaks of viruses and infectious diseases, including Ebola. We want to assure the community that we are taking the appropriate precautionary measures to keep our employees, visitors, and community safe and prevent the spread of this virus,” said Anetra Jones, chief nurse executive for the hospitals.

For more information visit or or call the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services Ebola hotline at1-800-222-1222.

LifePath Palliative Care & Hospice seeking volunteers, offering training

Sylva, N.C. –LifePath Palliative Care & Hospice of Harris Regional Hospital and Swain County Hospital is seeking volunteers for the LifePath team to assist in supporting patients under palliative care or hospice treatment, and is offering a special volunteer training session in November.

Those wishing to volunteer can choose from multiple areas of opportunity, 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.

Completion of LifePath volunteer training is required for those wishing to volunteer. The next volunteer training session will be held Saturday, November 15th 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.

Harris Regional Hospital hosting reception on October 10 to dedicate Tree of Hope to honor and remember breast cancer patients

Sylva, N.C. – As part of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month and the annual “Fall Fight” campaign against breast cancer at Harris Regional Hospital and Swain County Hospital, the women’s imaging center is hosting a reception on Friday, October 10 from 12:30-1:30pm in the first-floor lobby at Harris Medical Park at 98 Doctors Drive in Sylva to dedicate the Tree of Hope to honor and remember breast cancer patients.

The reception will include testimonials from breast cancer survivors who have undergone treatment at Harris Regional Hospital, as well as members of the breast cancer care team, including medical oncologist Dr. Trevor Austin with WNC Cancer Care and Carol VanCleve, RN, who serves as Breast Care Nurse Navigator at Harris and is coordinating the event.

At 1:00pm, Chaplain Ron Allen will conduct a brief dedication of the Tree of Hope, with breast cancer survivors placing cards on the tree with names of those being honored or remembered. Light refreshments will be served.

Everyone is invited to attend the reception. The tree will remain in place throughout October and community members, patients, and staff are all welcome to place cards on the tree at any time.

The annual “Fall Fight” is a campaign against breast cancer which includes many events throughout the month of October to promote awareness and early detection and provide education. Visit to learn more about the events and ways to help in the fight against breast cancer.

Those who schedule a mammogram during the month of October will receive a free “Fall Fight” t-shirt. Mammograms can be scheduled at any time by calling central scheduling at (828) 586-7950.

Special breast cancer prevention and education event scheduled for Tuesday, October 7 at Harris Regional Hospital

Sylva, NC – Harris Regional Hospital will host the October “Tuesdays to Thrive” session focused around education on the early detection of breast cancer and prevention as part of a year-long series of wellness events in partnership with Jackson County Department of Public Health. The event is open to the public and will take place Tuesday, October 7 from 6-7 p.m. in the main lobby of Harris Regional Hospital.

The event will feature an expert panel consisting of Harris Regional Hospital and Swain County Hospital Breast Care Nurse Navigator Carol VanCleve, RN, wellness coordinator Melanie Batchelor, MHS, RD, LDN, CDE, Harris Regional Hospital imaging manager Malanie Cooper, and Dr. Megan Metcalf with Mountain Regional OB/GYN.

Harris Regional Hospital is pleased to host this event and provide education on the importance of regular breast exams and mammograms which aid in early detection of abnormalities that may be breast cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, more than 230,000 women were diagnosed with breast cancer last year. Detecting abnormalities and potential cancer early aids in faster treatment and, often, totally curative results.

The panel of experts at Tuesdays to Thrive will weigh in on early detection, how to effectively perform self breast exams, how often to schedule mammograms, and other important healthy lifestyle tips that encourage breast cancer prevention.

Also included in the hour-long program will be information and a short session of laughter yoga by Cindy Miles, Family Caregiver Resource Coordinator for Jackson County Department of Health. Miles will offer insight on how laughter yoga can benefit those undergoing treatment as she presents “Laugh for the Health of It: A Complete Well-Being Workout.”

Refreshments and door prizes will be available during the event, as well as a special opportunity to schedule mammograms. No reservations are necessary for the event, which is free and open to all community members.

For more information, please visit or contact Melanie Batchelor at 828-586-7734.

Harris Regional Hospital and Swain County Hospital have served Jackson, Swain, Macon and Graham counties with primary and subspecialty care, outpatient facilities and urgent care together since 1997. The hospitals became part of Duke LifePoint Healthcare in 2014.

Ana Gonzalez, MD to join Sylva Medical Center in early September

gonzalezSylva, N.C. – WestCare is pleased to welcome Ana Gonzalez, MD to Sylva Medical Center, who will begin seeing patients Monday, September 8.

Gonzalez is a family medicine physician who received her medical degree from Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine at Marshall University and completed a residency at Cabell Huntington Hospital, both in Huntington, West Virginia.

Gonzalez is board-certified with the American Board of Family Medicine and is fluent in speaking, reading, and writing Spanish. She has experience treating patients of all ages in the hospital setting, managing acute and chronic medical conditions, as well as tropical diseases, and has also provided obstetrical care. In addition, she has training in international health.

As she joins Sylva Medical Center, which is located on the second floor of Harris Medical Park in Sylva, Gonzalez will focus on providing primary care to adult patients along with the practice’s internal medicine physicians Randall Provost, MD, Lee Ann Manthorne, DO, Steven Queen, MD, and Elizabeth Dixon, MD.

Gonzalez is the 10th physician to join WestCare in 2014. In addition to family and internal medicine, WestCare has welcomed physicians in the specialties of obstetrics/gynecology, palliative care and hospice, emergency medicine, pediatrics, and pulmonology across its campuses in Sylva and Bryson City.

Gonzalez enjoys outdoor activities and recently relocated to western North Carolina with her husband and two-year-old son.

Appointments are available now by calling 828-586-8971. For more information and a full WestCare provider directory, visit

WestCare EMS and Swain County Hospital attain top national rankings for patient experience

Swain ED PRC Award w EMS Award w

Sylva, NC – WestCare Emergency Medical Services and Swain County Hospital Emergency Department were recently awarded for excellence in patient satisfaction in the U.S. by Professional Research Consultants, a national healthcare research firm and leader in gauging healthcare consumer perceptions.

PRC annually recognizes healthcare facilities, providers, outpatient service lines, and inpatient units scoring in the top percentages of their national client database for the prior calendar year through the National Excellence in Healthcare Awards.

WestCare EMS received the 5-Star Award, scoring in the top 10 percent of the national database.

Swain County Hospital Emergency Department received the 4-Star Award, scoring in the top 25% of the national database.

The awards are based on the percentage of patients who rated the units “excellent” for the overall quality of care question.

“Receiving these awards from PRC is a true reflection of the level of skill and response our paramedics, nurses, physicians, technicians, and other staff members possess,” said Anetra Jones, Chief Nurse Executive for WestCare. “Providing excellent healthcare requires a full commitment to excellence from each person involved in that care, and these awards prove the commitment of these outstanding teams.”

WestCare EMS staffs three ambulances daily, responding to over 400 calls a month, in addition to providing support for the Jackson County First Responder program as well as educational and outreach programs for a variety of local institutions. The unit is also a North Carolina Office of EMS accredited teaching institution and an approved teaching site for many of the National Association of EMT’s courses.

The Swain County Hospital Emergency Department has provided emergency medical care to residents of Bryson City and surrounding communities for many years, offering the full spectrum of emergency care. The department is staffed with physicians with special training in emergency medicine, as well as an outstanding nursing staff with many years of clinical experience.

Swain County Hospital recently welcomed Stephen Plemmons, BSN, RN as Clinical Nursing Administrator, whose oversight includes the emergency department. Plemmons was a nurse at the bedside for eight years before recently serving in emergency medicine leadership roles.

“As a leader in providing quality healthcare, our commitment to caring for the whole person has to involve excellence in providing life-saving measures,” said Steve Heatherly, President and CEO of WestCare. “We are proud of these teams each day for their commitment to saving lives and for demonstrating that in each patient interaction, as these awards indicate.”


Swain ED Award (L to R) – Tammy Stephenson, RN, Bonnie Macon, RN, Anetra Jones, WestCare Chief Nurse Executive, and Steve Heatherly, WestCare President and CEO.

EMS Award (L to R) – Dr. Jud Garbarino, WestCare EMS Medical Director, Steven Rice, WestCare EMS Director, Anetra Jones, WestCare Chief Nurse Executive, Zach Stutts, WestCare EMS Training Officer, and Steve Heatherly, WestCare President and CEO.

WestCare Wellness presents series of monthly health and wellness events in partnership with Jackson County Department of Public Health

Sylva, NC – Beginning next month, WestCare Wellness will host a monthly series of health and wellness events entitled “Tuesdays to Thrive” in partnership with Jackson County Department of Public Health.

Tuesdays to Thrive events, which are free and open to the public, will focus on timely health topics using a whole-body approach. Attendees can learn valuable information, including preventative tips and evidence-based practices, about important health topics like diabetes, asthma and allergies, skin cancer prevention, cooking for a healthy weight, and more.

The first event, which will focus on preparing healthy family meals, will be held Thursday, September 4 from 6:00 – 7:00 p.m. in the main lobby at Harris Regional Hospital and will also feature a recipe contest and cooking contest. Attendees may sign up to participate in the “Kitchen Showdown Competition,” in which family teams (consisting of two or more people) may submit a recipe using healthy ingredients with easy preparation, and, if selected, prepare their recipe at the event. A panel of judges will select the winning recipe based on taste. Those interested in participating can find a recipe submission form at In order to participate in the competition, recipes must be submitted by Thursday, August 28. Ideas for quick, healthy meals and cooking tips will also be shared at the event.

“We are proud to offer events focused around wellness and the prevention of illness and disease,” said Steve Heatherly, WestCare President and CEO. “While our main function is to provide the highest quality of care to those experiencing sickness, we also want to be known as an organization focused on helping individuals to remain healthy and well throughout life.”

WestCare Wellness and the Jackson County Department of Public Health have partnered for these events as they share the goal of helping to create and support wellness for individuals in Jackson County.

“As we seek to serve the health needs of local residents, we strive to promote healthy habits and offer advice on getting and staying healthy,” said Melissa McKnight, Health Educator at Jackson County Department of Public Health. “We are excited to partner with WestCare for this series of events in order to represent healthcare from a preventative perspective.”

Complimentary refreshments and door prizes will be available at each event, which will be held the first Tuesday of each month through August of 2015, with the exception of the event on Thursday, September 4. A full calendar of events and their respective topics can be found online at

For more information, contact WestCare Wellness Coordinator Melanie Batchelor at (828) 586-7734, or Melissa McKnight, Health Educator at Jackson County Department of Public Health, at (828) 587-8288.