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  • Writer's pictureClay County

Clay County receives a grant for $112,500 for new Union General health facility in Hayesville.

Hayesville, N.C. – On October 18, 2018, it was announced by the North Carolina Rural Infrastructure Authority (RIA) that Clay County is the recipient of one of 21 grants it awarded to facilitate better rural health care. This grant will be used to help in the construction of a new 7,000 square foot Union General health facility in Hayesville. North Carolina Commerce Secretary Anthony M. Copeland made this announcement and said, “Rural communities across North Carolina need support to make smart investments in infrastructure in order to boost economic development. The new grants approved by the Rural Infrastructure Authority will lead to the creation of good jobs, greater prosperity and, in some cases, improved access to health care.”

In its own press release, the North Carolina Department of Commerce said that its team of rural economic development professionals supports the Authority’s work. Their funding has been derived from a variety of specialized grant and loan programs offered and managed by North Carolina’s Rural Economic Development Division of the Department of Commerce, led by Deputy Secretary for Rural Economic Development and Workforce Solutions, Napoleon Wallace, and Assistant Secretary for Rural Development, Kenny Flowers. Mr. Flowers said, “Local governments will gain greater capacity to help businesses locate and expand in rural North Carolina, thanks to the projects approved today. The Rural Economic Development Division of NC Commerce and the Rural Infrastructure Authority board are pleased to be able to partner with these communities to help them attract hundreds of new job opportunities.”

The $112,500 grant to Clay County falls under “Rural Health”. This will support the construction of the new Union General facility and will enable it to assist patients seven days per week. The facility will be able to provide basic lab, x-ray and ultrasound services. It is expected that the project will create nine jobs and more than $1.9 million in private investment to the area. Union General Chief Executive Officer, Lewis Kelley, explained, “the award will go a long way toward providing Clay County with high standard facilities and better access to medical care. It is part of our mission to provide better quality rural health services to marginalized communities and we appreciate the financial assistance granted by the State of North Carolina to help us in constructing an even finer facility.”

Commissioner Dr. Robert Peck said that, “it was great news that the RIA grant was issued to Clay County as it has long been held that residents in the County have not had access to locally available and high quality medical care seven days a week.” In keeping with the Commissioners’ mission to achieve a better quality life for all. Commissioner Clay Logan also indicated that, “the new facility will bridge a gap for many of the community’s older residents and working population who need access to medical services on the weekend and after normal business hours.”

Contrary to editorials published last week, County Manager Mark Pullium said, “the process of engaging Union General in the establishment of its facility in Hayesville has been an ongoing process and one of openness and transparency. The North Carolina Rural Infrastructure Authority formulates its well-researched policies and priorities for grant and loan programs administered by North Carolina’s Department of Commerce Rural Economic Development team. There are 16 voting members appointed by the Governor, Speaker of the House and Senate President Pro Tem. The award of the grant therefore was part of a public process, and was done with the highest regard for good governance.”

While Union General is often associated with its hospital in Blairsville, it has 20 other operations in both north Georgia and North Carolina. These operations can provide a feeder to Union General as well as other facilities in the area. Union General, however, provides not only emergency services, but also access to on-duty surgeons who can deal with critical care and surgeries not possible to undertake at the other closest hospital in Murphy.

According to Dr. Peck, the County Commissioners and staff have worked tirelessly to address the deficit in emergency medical services and 7-day access to affordable healthcare in the region. In fact, the Commissioners have already submitted a similar grant application on behalf of Erlanger to the State of North Carolina to support the renovation of their proposed site in Hayesville. This is indicative of the County’s and Commissioners’ goal to bring accessible healthcare to the community from service providers who are committed to improving rural health.

Likewise, the County appointed airlift services company, Air Methods, due to the need for more sophisticated medical treatment for those that suffer catastrophic illness, accidents and dread diseases. The appointment of this company was not a “rushed” decision, but was done in the interests of the community. In fact, a community member’s life was recently in danger and Air Methods was able to safely airlift him to a facility where he could receive the necessary life-saving care. According to Mr. Pullium, the County met on four different occasions with Life Force but they were unable to offer their services for free to County residents.

“Clay County,” says Mr. Pullium, “is here to serve all its residents and taking particular cognizance of its retirement population and citizens who fall near the median age of 51. The new medical facility in Hayesville will make great strides toward filling a gap in health care in the County and we appreciate the generosity of the RIA.”

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