It was a big check, both literally and figuratively, for Liberty Regional Medical Center on Monday morning.
Ameris Bank officials presented the LRMC with a check for $400,000 as part of its support for the Georgia HEART (Helping Enhance Access to Rural Treatment) Hospital Program.
“It’s just a great way to give back,” said James Rogers, the city president for Ameris Bank and the chairman of the Liberty County Hospital Authority. “I’m happy that the bank is willing to participate in the program. It’s a great program. I am glad we are putting our money into local health needs.”
In all, the bank is donating more than $2 million to 15 rural hospitals across the state. The only other hospital in southeast Georgia to receive a donation was the Southeast Georgia Health System in St. Marys and Brunswick.
“We’re in awe over the amount this year,” said Liberty Regional Medical Center CEO Tammy Mims. “We’re so fortunate that Ameris Bank has given this tremendous donation.”
Past donations have allowed the hospital to start its own oncology program, Mims noted, and have led to renovation of patient rooms.
“We’re very excited,” she said.
The most recent gift from Ameris will go toward the hospital’s new wound care program, Mims said. The results of the hospital’s community health needs assessment showed the importance of diabetes care, and for some diabetes patients, wounds are often difficult to heal.
The hospital got the goahead to open a wound care center, and Ameris Bank’s gift will go toward that building and getting that program started, Mims said.
Other rural hospitals have had to close programs during the COVID-19 pandemic because of a lack of funding, Mims pointed out. More than 12 closed their delivery rooms.
“Some people have to drive over an hour before they can have a baby,” she said.
LRMC is one of only two critical access hospitals in the state that still delivers babies.
Under the Georgia Rural Hospital Tax Credit, state businesses and taxpayers can direct their state income tax liability to support qualified hospitals, such as LRMC. To take part in the Georgia HEART program, rural hospitals must meet certain qualifications.
“We depend on the Georgia HEART tax donation,” Mims said. “We’re so fortunate that Ameris Bank has given this tremendous donation.”
“It’s really amazing to be a part of it,” said branch manager Danny Creasy. “We’re excited we’ve got that number ($400,000) this year.”
In the past, the bank has donated $200,000 to LRMC and twice has given $250,000 to the hospital. Ameris Bank has given more than $10 million to rural hospitals over the last four years, Rogers noted.
“For them to give over $2 million to rural hospitals, that’s huge,” Mims said of Ameris Bank. “For us to receive this amount is tremendous.”
While other hospitals have closed cardiac and pulmonary rehabilitation services for a lack of reimbursement, LRMC has kept its programs going, Mims added.
“Because of the need, we have to keep it open. Its funds like this that keep those programs going,” she said.
Sustaining and adding programs at LRMC is a benefit for residents, especially those who also have a lack of transportation, Rogers said.
“A lot of folks don’t have the means to get to Savannah,” he said. “One of the greatest programs we’ve been able to start at the hospital is the oncology program. It’s an amazing program. I’m ecstatic the bank’s participating. I’m proud to say we’re a part of it.”