One Breast Cancer Survivor’s Story

Some people dedicate their lives to serving others, and Carolyn Niemeyer is precisely one of these individuals. If she’s not stocking shelves with food and picking up orders for the BackPack Weekend Food Program, she’s preparing a meal for a friend recently home from the hospital or attending another meeting for one of the many committees on which she resides. Her passion and love for people are what inspires her.

Last July, Carolyn Niemeyer, 71, was diagnosed with breast cancer. Because breast cancer runs in her family, Carolyn routinely performed Breast Self Exams and never forgot to schedule annual mammograms, both of which ultimately helped save her life.

Genetic history, like age and gender, is a risk factor that cannot be changed. According to the American Cancer Society, women with close relatives who have been diagnosed with breast cancer have a higher risk of developing the disease. A woman’s risk doubles if she has a first-degree female relative (sister, mother, daughter) diagnosed with breast cancer. If two first-degree relatives have been diagnosed, a women’s risk is five times higher than average.

Breast cancer traces back several generations in Carolyn’s family making her a candidate for genetic testing now provided at the CaroMont Cancer Center. Carolyn’s mother died at age 67 with breast cancer and her mother’s sisters were diagnosed with cancer—one with breast and the other with ovarian cancer; both sisters died in their 50s. In April 2013, Carolyn’s younger sister, 67 at the time, also was diagnosed with breast cancer.

“When I received the diagnosis, I was scared and unsure about my future because of my family history,” said Carolyn. “It was very comforting to be able to meet with Dr. Charles Meakin to go over my radiation treatment plan. I was treated with dignity each day that I came for the radiation treatments at the CaroMont Cancer Center.  The staff was very concerned about my apprehension and offered advice each step of the way.”

Carolyn completed her treatments and is cancer free today. She will continue to receive annual mammograms and perform self breast exams, two important preventive measures she encourages all women to do to stay ahead of any possible sign of breast cancer.

“Had I waited, I might not have had the same outcome,” she said. “Early diagnosis is the key. I encourage women to be diligent in self breast exams and if you have any doubt, seek medical advice immediately.”

Carolyn says to be alive today is a “saving factor” due to the many progressive treatments that are available and early diagnosis as compared to many years ago.

“Each day I shower and look at my surgical scar, I am reminded of how fortunate I have been to have the surgeon who believed me when I told him I had changes in my breast,” said Carolyn. “I am so grateful to receive excellent treatment and care at CaroMont Cancer Center right here in Gastonia by outstanding physicians and medical professionals who took the time to guide me through this journey.

CaroMont Cancer Center provides a comprehensive continuum of care approach to the treatment of cancer. This includes prevention, early detection, education, treatment, follow up, symptom management and patient survivorship services.

“I have been wearing a pink ribbon every day [in October] as a reminder to others to be aware of the ongoing battle of breast cancer, but more importantly, that I am a survivor!”

CaroMont Avoids Medicare Penalty

Orr, Adam. (2014 October 24). Ahead of Curve. CaroMont Avoids Medicare Penalty. The Gaston Gazette

CaroMont Health has changed the way it treats and monitors patients over the past three years — changes the nonprofit’s leaders say will help avoid stiff federal Medicare fines in 2015.

CaroMont paid combined Medicare fines of more than $214,000 in 2013 and 2014. Those penalties come in the form of reduced Medicare reimbursements. But the health-care system will pay no such penalties in 2015 thanks to a decrease in the number of patients it readmitted in recent years.

Since 2012, Medicare, the federal senior insurance program, has punished hospitals that readmit high numbers of patients with certain conditions.

If those people are admitted into the hospital more than once in 30 days, the hospital gets paid less for the second stay and each one thereafter.

The fines focus on patients treated for chronic lung diseases, pneumonia, hip and knee replacements, heart attacks and heart failure.

The government’s goal?

The system is aimed at reducing the number of patients who return to hospitals after receiving treatment, a strategy Medicare hopes will improve the care patients receive and reduce costs for taxpayers.

Peggy Blackburn, CaroMont Health’s director of case management services, said an emphasis on reducing readmissions is an effective way to improve both areas.

What’s changing?

Blackburn said CaroMont has adjusted how medical professionals treat patients at CaroMont Regional. But the crucial difference, she says, includes more carefully tracking what happens to patients after they’ve been released from the hospital.

“Readmissions are about a lot of different factors,” Blackburn said. “It depends on how sick a patient is, what happens during their hospital visit, at discharge and after they leave the hospital.”

Major changes include:

1. A team of nurses — experts in disease management — who monitor high-risk patients for up to 30 days after they leave the hospital. Blackburn called this change crucial because patients are monitored for follow-up visits and some patients are even visited at home.

2. A team of CaroMont doctors examined why patients return to the hospital after receiving treatment. That same team then made changes in how patients are discharged.

3. Certain patients are followed after they’ve moved to a nursing home or skilled nursing setting, and hospital staff makes recommendations for further care.

4. CaroMont has also employed transitional care pharmacists to make sure discharged patients receive the proper medications.

Could CaroMont face penalties again in the future?

Yes. Blackburn said the steps CaroMont has taken are necessary, but the non-profit will have to monitor readmission rates for a growing number of illnesses and procedures, including COPD this year.

Next year the penalties will be based on readmissions for patients with coronary bypass surgery and strokes as well as all the previously monitored conditions.

“We’ll have to continue to evolve,” Blackburn said. “So we’re rolling out any improvements or best practices to include all patients — and not just ones that are subjected to penalty.”

How does CaroMont feel about the plan?

The local health-care system supports the government’s focus on reducing readmissions,says Alex Mullineaux, CaroMont’s director of public affairs. But he says social and economic factors affecting a hospital’s patients should be considered when determining which hospitals should be penalized for excessive admissions.

“Some hospitals like CaroMont Regional deal with tough conditions that are not being taken into account,” Mullineaux said. “Right now (Medicare) doesn’t look at overall socioeconomic conditions.”

CaroMont Taking Active Steps to Protect Patients and the Community

Since the emergence of the Ebola virus in the U.S., CaroMont Health has been working diligently to further develop its emergency response plans and processes to ensure the continued health and safety of our patients, visitors and employees.

While the risk of Ebola spreading in our community is low, CaroMont Health understands the seriousness of the disease and is responding to the situation appropriately. We want our community to know that we are prepared.

CaroMont Health’s Ebola Preparedness Team, in collaboration with Gaston County Health and Human Services and other Gaston County agencies, are closely monitoring the national situation and continuing to support its medical staff and clinics to be prepared to meet any challenges our community may encounter.

For more than a month our Ebola Preparedness Team, comprised of infectious disease experts, medical personnel and health system leadership, has been building on the infection control plans that we have had in place for many years to address patients who present to our facilities, including:

  • Implementing internal policies to steer the immediate isolation, management and treatment of patients suspected of being exposed to Ebola.
  • Screening ALL patients who present to any CaroMont Health facility or clinic regarding their travel history.
  • Requiring staff to follow strict infection control prevention protocols, including hand washing, cleaning and disinfection of patient equipment and environment, and proper use of personal protective equipment (PPE).
  • Educating clinical staff to recognize the symptoms of Ebola and steps to take should a patient present with these symptoms.
  • Providing necessary protective equipment and infection prevention protocols based on guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO). Our PPE protocol offers complete body coverage using Tyvex suits.
  • Minimizing staff exposure by identifying units that will care for these patients including the Emergency Department, Infectious Disease, Acute Care and Critical Care. These staff members will receive hands-on training and extensive support to ensure they are prepared to protect themselves and others.

Protecting our patients, visitors and employees is our top priority, and the planning and guidance of our infection prevention team will ensure that we are well prepared to provide excellent care in a safe environment.

Todd Davis, MD, Vice President, Patient Safety, Quality and Medical Affairs Officer

CaroMont CEO Honored by Gaston Regional Chamber

Orr, Adam. (28 September 2014). CaroMont CEO to be honored by Chamber. The Gaston Gazette, online.

Doug Luckett had to turn challenges into opportunities when he became CaroMont Health’s interim chief executive last April.

“We had employees that were looking at their feet and physicians that were saying they didn’t want to be here,” Luckett said, describing the atmosphere at Gastonia’s CaroMont Regional Medical Center in April 2013. “But I think it became a circuit breaker for us to talk about what we wanted to do and what we needed to be.” Luckett became CEO in October 2013. He will be recognized with the Gaston Regional Chamber’s Spirit of the Economy award at the Salute to Business and Manufacturing gala at the Schiele Museum of Natural History in Gastonia on Oct. 16.

He sat down with The Gazette to share some of the lessons he learned after being promoted from his post as CaroMont’s chief operating officer. His new role came after a series of company decisions — including changing the name of Gaston Memorial Hospital to CaroMont Regional Medical Center and a controversial “Cheat Death” marketing campaign — had drawn fire from patients, employees and the community.

“That really became a time to clarify what was important to us,” Luckett said. “I told our staff and doctors that I never wanted them to have to apologize for where they worked or what they did, but above all I told them that they needed to do one thing above everything else: to never let anything distract them from focusing on the patient.”

He said he also promised employees that CaroMont’s administration would never “outrun” the nonprofit’s board of directors, staff or patients, that it was committed to communicating with them.

“I don’t ever want staff to find out about something by reading the local newspaper,” Luckett said. “We want to make sure that we’re communicating with them, that they hear it from us first.”

‘I’m accountable’
Luckett said he saw it as his job to remain visible and approachable to staff and the community. That often meant wearing his CaroMont name tag in public, he said.

“I live here, work here and ride my motorcycle here,” Luckett said. “Whether I’m at Hickory Tavern or Target or at church, I want people to know that I’m accountable. I don’t want buffers between me and the community and I’ve always thought that’s the way it should be.”

Some of the most vocal complaints probably came from local veterans unhappy with the hospital’s name change, Luckett said. Gaston Memorial Hospital — the name of the original hospital — was designed to honor men and women who served the country.

“The name change made sense — the hospital truly does serve this entire region — but we also understood how some military veterans viewed that change,” Luckett said. “Those conversations really drove home the importance of this hospital to a community that really cares about it, that felt like it was relevant to them.”

Luckett called the conversations constructive.

“I think the veteran community … brought real dialogue to the table,” Luckett said. “I think we understand we’re not a surrogate for government. We’re not the VA (Veterans Affairs). But we do have a deep history with the veterans in this community.”

The importance of listening
Luckett said it was also clear that hospital physicians and staff needed to play a larger role in decisions made by CaroMont. He saw it as an opportunity to show employees CaroMont was serious about listening to their concerns.

“It was a chance to work with our physicians about their role in how decisions are made internally,” Luckett said.

The recent decision to partner with Apollo MD, a physician management group, was made almost entirely by CaroMont’s physicians, nurses and staff, according to Luckett.

“They put the feelers out. They did the reference checks,” Luckett said. “In the end that was their decision. For our employees to decide who they want to work with is important. I think those relationships are much better in the end.”

Staying independent
Luckett said his focus remains on making sure CaroMont’s doctors and staff have the tools they need to deliver the best care they can. He acknowledges that remaining an independent nonprofit surrounded by larger health organizations like Carolina’s Healthcare and Novant will always be a difficult task.

“All health systems have places they can improve,” Luckett said. “But we’ve got to make our own way and do so in a world that doesn’t necessarily favor high-quality, low-cost facilities. Sometimes it seems like you have to be big to exist, but CaroMont wants to prove you wrong.”

CaroMont Health Recognized with ‘Salute to the Economy’ Award

Orr, Adam. (2014, October 17). Watson, CaroMont earn chamber’s salute. The Gaston Gazette, pp. 8A.

The Gaston Regional Chamber’s 12th annual Salute to Business and Manufacturing celebrated the stellar 50-year career of Tom Watson Jr., owner of Watson Insurance, and the contributions hometown health care provider CaroMont Health makes to Gaston County.

Thursday’s black-tie event was held at the Schiele Museum’s Matthews Belk Cannon Environmental Studies Center.

“It’s important to pause, step back, honor and recognize those things we value in this community,” said Ann Hoscheit, chairwoman- elect of the chamber’s board of directors. “This event does exactly that. It celebrates our manufacturing legacy and sends a message of appreciation to our local businesses, their leaders and their employees.”

‘Humbling honor’

Watson, who’s been in the insurance business since 1965, brought home the chamber’s Spirit of the Carolinas Award. He’s helped grow the tiny firm his father founded in the 1930s to 70 employees today.

“This is just a special, humbling honor,” Watson said. “We’ve been really, really fortunate over the years.”

Since the mid-1960s, Watson has seen massive changes in the insurance industry, including a growing reliance on technology that radically simplified how firms like his serve customers. He’s also weathered disasters like a tornado outbreak in 1974 and Hurricane Hugo in 1989.

The secret to his success? Hoscheit said it is Watson’s ability to create personal relationships with his customers, his commitment to employees and his desire to give back that has allowed him to thrive over the past five decades.

Overcoming adversity

CaroMont Health was recognized with the chamber’s Spirit of the Economy Award.

“It is challenging to think of a business that has a greater impact on our community,” Hoscheit said. “Whether a person receives their health care from a CaroMont doctor or facility, we all benefit from their presence.”

The nonprofit has bounced back just a year after a series of company decisions — including changing the names of Gaston Memorial Hospital to CaroMont Regional Medical Center and a controversial marketing campaign — drew fire from patients, employees and the community.

“What a special, special honor this is,” CaroMont Health CEO Doug Luckett said. “As a local award, this means more than you could possibly imagine.” Luckett was named CaroMont’s CEO in October 2013. “I admire Doug Luckett … as a visionary leader, but even more so as a man who understands and values relationships,” Hoscheit said. “He is among the best bridge builders I know.”

Hoscheit emphasized the necessity for CaroMont to remain independent and why Gaston County should care about the organization’s future.

“Locally based health care means we have access to specialty services,” Hoscheit said. “As
one of the largest employers in our county, we could lose hundreds of jobs if we were merely a satellite to a larger system.”

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“The Salute to Business and Manufacturing Awards and Gala is a very special event and we at CaroMont Health are especially pleased that the Gaston Regional Chamber chose to honor our health system and CEO, Doug Luckett, with the Spirit of the Economy Award. Since Doug assumed the helm at CaroMont, he has thoroughly embedded himself in the community through volunteerism and has become an active participant in the Chamber.  He has tirelessly reached out and made himself available to all stakeholders to foster collegiality and cooperation for the good of Gaston County. He has and continues to work to make CaroMont Health a premier health care organization that responds to the needs of Gaston County residents and its family of employees.  To that end, the hospital emergency department is getting a facelift, and the new Mount Holly facility is well on track.  CaroMont has won several awards, but this award from the Gaston Regional Chamber is the “icing on the cake.” We are very proud of Doug and are grateful for his leadership.”

-Sheila S. Reilly, Ph.D., Chair of the CaroMont Health Board of Directors

“Doug is hands down the best CEO I have ever worked with/for. He is the definition of a servant leader. He takes the time to get to know our staff and as a result he is well-loved by all. I feel so incredibly fortunate to be on his team.”

-Bonnie Faust, VP, Chief Nursing Officer, CaroMont Health

New Medical Provider, Heath High, MD, Joins CaroMont Health

CaroMont Health welcomes Heath High, MD to its medical team. Dr. High will practice with CaroMont Critical Care Specialists at CaroMont Regional Medical Center. Critical care, also referred to as intensive care, is a branch of medicine concerned with life or organ support for patients who are critically ill and require intensive monitoring.

Bringing extensive experience to his new position, Dr. High offers emergency and critical care services, with a professional interest in sepsis and septic shock. Dr. High earned his Bachelor of Science in Cell and Molecular Biology with a concentration in Health Sciences, in addition to a minor in French Language and Francophone Literature and Cultures from Washington and Jefferson College. He furthered his career by obtaining a Doctor of Medicine from the American University of the Caribbean.

In his spare time, Dr. High enjoys watching the Baltimore Ravens and Orioles, running and fitness. He leads his life with his favorite quote, “Family is not an important thing. It’s everything.”

Kymberly Kloefkorn, AGNP-BC, Joins CaroMont Heart in Gastonia

CaroMont Health announces the addition of a new provider to their medical team. Kymberly Kloefkorn, AGNP-BC, joins CaroMont Heart in Gastonia. CaroMont Heart offers a complete range of services and treatments covering all aspects of cardiac, vascular, thoracic and complex cardiovascular care, including innovative procedures for chest pain evaluation, open heart surgery, lung surgery, post-hospital support and cardiac rehabilitation.

Kloefkorn attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where she received advanced training as an Adult/Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner. She dedicates herself to offering comprehensive and holistic care to all her patients. Kloefkorn’s goal is to provide the education and guidance needed to assist adults in achieving and maintaining cardiovascular health. She believes each patient should be cared for individually by incorporating personal values and beliefs in their continuum of care.

Kloefkorn earned certifications from the American Association of Nurse Practitioners, Adult Gerontology Nurse Practitioner, Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation and Advanced Cardiac Life Support.

She leads with her personal philosophy to give exceptional care and develop lifelong personal relationships with patients. In her spare time, she enjoys outdoor activities and traveling.

CaroMont Heart offers five convenient locations in Gastonia, Belmont, Lincolnton, Shelby and Lake Wylie, and can be reached at 704-83-HEART.

CaroMont Health Welcomes Cheryl Baxter, FNP-BC

CaroMont Health and CaroMont Medical Group welcome Cheryl Baxter, MSN, FNP-BC, to their medical team. Baxter joins South Point Family Practice in Stanley, North Carolina, which offers a wide range of primary health care services for all stages of life.

Baxter completed advanced training in the Family Nurse Practitioner Program and earned a Bachelor of Science from Clarion University in 2001, with a focus on x-ray and lab interpretation and simple suturing. She began her career as a Registered Nurse at VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System for eight years. Before coming to CaroMont Health, she practiced at Cherryville Primary Care.

Baxter has a special interest in diabetes management and women’s health care. She leads with her personal philosophy to give exceptional care and develop lifelong personal relationships with patients. In her spare time, Cheryl enjoys crafts, gardening and spending time with her family.

South Point Family Practice in Stanley is located at 159 East Dallas Road in Stanley and can be reached at 704.825.5333.

Ceremony Kicks Off Construction at CaroMont Regional Medical Center

CaroMont Health officially marked the commencement of construction for a 10,000 square-foot renovation of the existing Emergency Department at CaroMont Regional Medical Center.  The project aims to enhance emergency medicine offerings in Gaston County and continue to improve patient experiences. Employees, business people and community partners gathered to celebrate the ceremonial groundbreaking on Tuesday morning at the hospital in Gastonia.

“The renovation project at CaroMont Regional Medical Center reflects our longstanding commitment to provide state-of-the-art health care in a high-touch, patient-friendly environment,” said Doug Luckett, President and CEO at CaroMont Health. “We are excited to make these enhancements to improve emergency services; they will benefit our patients, community and our employees well into the future.”

When completed, the $16.5 million project will create more space for a larger waiting area, four private triage rooms and a care transition area to provide more comfort for patients and their families. The new space will also feature a pediatric care space with a separate waiting area and treatment rooms to care for the unique needs of pediatric patients. These enhancements support CaroMont’s commitment to improving patient flow and expediting care for patients.

The growing need for emergency care is evidenced by the nearly 100,000 people who visit CaroMont’s Emergency Department annually, making it one of the busiest emergency facilities in the state. The last renovation of the Emergency Department was in 1999 and was designed to serve approximately 60,000 patients a year.

“We have been meeting with our community over the last year to get input about how we can improve our patient services and experience,” said Luckett. “We have been able to incorporate this feedback into these improvements to make care more convenient, patient-centered and efficient for our residents.”

The renovation is expected to be completed in 2016.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Emergency Department Entrance Change

Beginning Friday, August 22 at 7:00 a.m., all CaroMont Regional Medical Center Emergency Department patients will be directed to a new entrance and waiting area.  All emergency traffic will now enter from Entrance B off Court Drive. Signage and staff will be around campus to help direct traffic during this time.  This change marks the beginning of an extensive renovation and expansion of the Emergency Department at CaroMont Regional.  When finished in 2016, the new Emergency Department will offer a new pediatric area, a larger general waiting area and private triage rooms.

During the initial phase of this project, a portion of the parking lot will be closed.  To ensure the highest-quality care and experience for our patients, security will closely evaluate all Emergency traffic and offer complimentary 24-hour valet service for handicapped parking and those with medical emergencies who are unable to self-park.  All other patients and visitors are asked to park in the visitor parking deck adjacent to the Birthplace.

Here are some helpful hints for patients using valet:

  • Please remove or conceal all valuables: Your vehicle will be parked in a secure area, but CaroMont Regional Medical Center and Park Inc. are not responsible for items left in your vehicle.
  • Keep your claim tickets:  Please keep the claim tickets you were given when you dropped off your car. You will need these to claim your car when you leave.  If the tickets are lost, please see one of the parking attendants.
  • Picking up your vehicle:  Upon discharge, please visit the valet podium at the Emergency Department entrance with your claim tickets.  Please allow 10 to 15 minutes for staff to retrieve your vehicle.
  • Hospital Admissions: If you are admitted to the hospital, please make arrangements to have your car moved within 24 hours. If you are alone, please notify registration staff that your vehicle is parked in valet.
  • Questions: If you have any questions about valet services, please ask the valet attendants.  For customer service or patient care questions, please call the Patient Representatives department at 704.834.2694.
  • Please do not tip valet attendants.  For the convenience of our patients, this service is complimentary; attendants are unable to accept tips. 

Healing People

Leading the way in quality care, CaroMont Health believes in treating everyone with respect, having open and responsible communication, never compromising integrity, and highly values customer satisfaction. Patients can come to CaroMont Health with the utmost trust and confidence that our staff is hard at work pushing the edge of medical science and saving lives. In 2010, we achieved HealthGrades Distinguished Hospital for Clinical Excellence. And our Cancer Center won the Outstanding Achievement Award from the American College of Surgeons Commission.

Gaston Memorial Hospital

Magnet Award
Health Grades Award
CareChex a rating service of The Delta Group

Building Community

We believe that a community’s wellbeing is dependent on everyone contributing and that together we can help our community thrive. By offering special events, sponsoring athletic competitions and attracting great speakers like Dr. Oz, CaroMont Health is creating shared community experiences. CaroMont Health has also developed CaroMontUrgent Care in the Mountain Island lake community, which will save you time without sacrificing the quality of non-emergency care.

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Wellness

CaroMont Health has created support and educational services in a safe, family-centered environment to promote healthy lifestyle choices. By providing a variety of classes focused on topics for men, women, the elderly, newborns and more, CaroMont Health hopes to empower individuals to make a difference. Some classes offered for expectant and new parents for example, enhance the experiences involved in birth and beyond – such as Second Time Around, Moms in Motion, and Infant CPR and Safety.

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