Story, Photos and Videos
By Jeff M. Hardison © Feb. 7, 2015 @ 9:37 p.m.
WILLISTON – Business owners and government leaders came to Williston on Saturday (Feb. 7), showing support for Regional General Hospital.
A ribbon-cutting ceremony and health fair provided the perfect backdrop for people to see the hospital and several other medical-oriented business interests in the area. Emergency response units were on hand as well.
The moment of cutting the ribbon is captured on video.
Cheryll Jones, who is with Nurse On Call home health company, introduced Williston Mayor R. Gerald Hethcoat and Dr. Devaiah Pagidipati. Jones is also among the leaders of Tri-County Marketers, a group of medical professionals who meet monthly to network with each other.
That group’s next meeting is at BubbaQue’s in Bronson at noon on Tuesday (Feb. 10).
The mayor said he considers himself privileged to be given the opportunity to welcome people to the ribbon-cutting ceremony and health fair; although he mentioned it is during a time on Saturday morning when some people are sleeping in.
Cheryll Jones “It’s great to see activity at our hospital again,” Hethcoat said. “It’s great to see people coming here to not only this event, but coming here to utilize the hospital.”
The mayor said the hospital has meant a lot to the community over the years. Hethcoat worked in the hospital for about 12 years, he added. The mayor said it is important to have a hospital in the community.
Hethcoat said he is thankful for the people who are making it succeed, and he calls upon all of the people in and around Williston to support the hospital by using it.
Dr. Devaiah Pagidipati
Dr. Pagidipati shared his perspective on the area during his welcoming remarks before the ribbon-cutting ceremony, and he mentioned the hospital is considering a new name with "Community" as part of it. The hospital owner said he is thankful for the mayor and the leadership in Williston and Levy County.
“I especially want to thank ‘my people,’” Pagidipati said. “’My people’ being my employees. Without them, I couldn’t have done anything.”
The doctor told people that local, state and federal governments help people by covering some of the costs of medical care. Seven or eight months ago, he saw an opportunity to buy the hospital and improve it so that it would be of more service to the people of the Williston Community.
Since then, he and his 100-plus full-time and part-time employees and about 50 independent contractors have revamped the hospital from top to bottom. It is extremely clean and functional now.
“So we are supporting 150 jobs in this area,” he said. Since he took ownership, the continual improvement of the facility has been successful. RGH earned seventh place out of 77 hospitals in Florida for safety, he said.
The Williston Chamber of Commerce recognized the positive impact the hospital has had on the city and the business community. The 2014 Business of the Year Award went to Regional General Hospital of Williston. To see the story about the banquet, please click HERE.
This award from the Chamber, he said, is further encouragement for him and his employees to continue striving for more success daily. The hospital has installed a 64-slice CT scanner, he said.
A 64-slice CT scanner is computed tomography (CT) scanning. This scan uses X-rays to obtain image data from different angles around the body and then those images are processed by a computer. The images are three-dimensional and provide good resolution. The CT is an excellent technique to make a diagnosis of disorders in many different parts of the body, however, because the heart is constantly beating, CT scan could never be used to image it in the past.
Before this, the technical gold standard was 16-slice CT scan, which required the patient to hold their breath for 25- to 40-seconds in the time it took to perform the scan. Today, the 64-slice CT scanner can perform the same task in just a few seconds and the images are much better.
Dr. Pagidipati said an MRI is planned for installation at the hospital very soon as well.
An MRI is magnetic resonance imaging, which is a test that uses a magnetic field and pulses of radio wave energy to make pictures of organs and structures inside the body. In many cases, MRI gives different information about structures in the body than can be seen with an X-ray, ultrasound or a CT scan.
“People don’t need to drive 20 or 30 miles to go to Gainesville or Ocala,” he said.
The hospital in Williston has the same CT scanner as the other hospitals. Also, people do not have to wait hour after hour to be seen in the Emergency Room, and there is no charge for parking. Eighty-five percent of the people seen at the RGH ER are completely done within two hours, he said.
“If you go to Shands, you have to wait eight hours,” he said. “Not only eight hours, but you have to pay for parking.”
Dr. Pagidipati said he wants to bring back the glory when it was named Memorial Hospital.
He is thinking about changing the name to Community Hospital, he said. After Dr. Pagidipati finished his speech, Jones introduced RGH Director of Nursing Melanie Stokes.
Director Stokes thanked everyone for coming to the ribbon-cutting ceremony and health fair. Later that morning, Dr. Pagidipati mentioned that Jones is great for the hospital. “It’s whole team effort,” Jones said, as she noted every employee contributes to the whole success.
Williston Chamber Of Commerce Vice President Jennifer Radder, Secretary Jana Carlisle and Executive Director Mary Kline were present with ribbon and great scissors.
Dr. Pagidipati cut the ribbon as Mayor Hethcoat, County Commissioner Lilly Rooks, the Chamber officials and many of the hospital’s employees joined on that side of the ribbon.
Meanwhile, a surprisingly large crowd on the other side of the ribbon showed that even on an early Saturday morning, people would come out to show their endorsement for this progressive, strong business that is helping the physical health of people in the community as well as the economic health of the area.
FREE GIFTS AND FOOD
Everyone who came to the event was able to enjoy free popcorn, provided by First Baptist Church of Williston. The hospital provided free cotton candy. The mayor cooked free hotdogs. Peter Robinson, dietary manager of RGH, and PRN Dietician Vicki Haynes-Johnson gave away apples and oranges from the hospital.
One of the ShandsCair helicopters lands at Regional General Hospital in Williston. During part of this video, the wind (or prop wash) from the helicopter may be noticed on the audio part of the video and it moved the videographer a little bit too.
The hospital’s nutritionists also provided plenty of information about food for healthy living. Children were able to receive various types of candy from several of the vendors. The Levy County Department of Public Safety gave children lollipops with the message “Stop, Drop and Roll” on the stick. They also gave away child-sized plastic, red firefighters helmets.
The Levy County Sheriff’s Office gave away “Deputy Sheriff” stick-on “badges” to children. A free bounce house and several children’s games were available at the health fair as well. Another free service from the hospital was a photo booth.
Regional General Hospital of Williston also offered free cholesterol, blood glucose, blood pressure, BMI tests. And there were other tests available for a minimal cost.EMERGENCY SERVICES
An entrance by air by one of the helicopters from ShandsCair drew people toward the cement helipad that is fenced and has lights for night landings. Shands also had one of its large Critical Care Transport Ambulances at the health fair. In addition to the flying ambulance and the CCTA, Shands has a neo-natal ambulance to transport premature babies. Among the staff on that mobile unit are a critical care nurse and a respiratory therapist.
Staff members from Williston Police Department, Williston Fire Rescue, the Levy County Sheriff’s Office and the Levy County Department of Public Safety were on hand to share information and speak with people about their emergency rescue equipment as well.
The Blood Mobile from LifeSouth Community Blood Centers was parked on the hospital parking lot, available for anyone who wanted to donate.
Another large vehicle – the mobile learning laboratory from the College of Central Florida was at the site. This lab also has a model of a human that can react to actions such as injections to help students learn about administering medicine.
Rod McGinnes of CF said there are 22 students in the CF EMT Class at the Levy Campus this semester. He mentioned that CF would like to offer a paramedic class at the campus starting with the term in January of 2016, but there needs to be at least 12 students to make that happen.