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LRMC’s Mom’s Heart Matters effort getting noticed across the state
LRMC’s Mom’s Heart Matters effort getting noticed across the state
Liberty Regional Medical Center CEO Tammy Mims details the improvements to the hospital. Photo by Pat Donahue

A Liberty Regional Medical Center effort to keep new moms healthy is getting notice across the state and beyond Georgia.

Tammy Mims, CEO at Liberty Regional Medical Center, said the hospital has been getting calls from other states about the Mom’s Heart Matters initiative, a program designed to cut down on the mortality rate of new mothers.

“We’re trying to get the word out,” she said at a recent Chamber of Commerce Progress Through People luncheon.

Hypertension is a danger during pregnancy, Mims said, and she spoke with a legislative committee during the recent General Assembly session about Georgia’s maternal mortality rates.

“I said, ‘I’ve got a program for you,’” she recalled.

Right after a baby is delivered is one of the most dangerous times for moms, Mims said.

Maternal mortality rates rose from 2019 to 2021, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In 2019, 754 women died from maternal causes in 2019. That number reached 1,205 in 2021.

The rate for maternal mortality among Black women is even higher. According to the CDC, the maternal mortality rate in 2021 for Black women was 32.9 deaths per 100,000 live deaths, up from a rate of 20.1 per 100,000 live births in 2019. It’s a rate that is more than twice that for whites.

And Georgia’s maternal mortality rate is among the nation’s worst. The Peach State had the seventh-highest maternal mortality rate from 201921, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

“We have moms dying unnecessarily after delivery,” Mims said.

LRMC is one of only 30 critical care access hospitals in the state, and one of only two still delivering babies. During the COVID-19 pandemic, 14 hospitals closed their delivery functions.

Of Georgia’s 159 counties, only 104 have hospitals. There are 182 hospitals across the state, Mims said, but 42 are operating at a loss. Since 2013, 17 hospitals in Georgias have closed.

“We have the third highest rate of rural hospital closures,” she said.

The LRMC, though, is expanding its services and Mims credited the hospital authority, with new chairman Reggie Pierce, for helping continue that push.

The hospital has a walk-in clinic next to its emergency department, which is the busiest for any critical access facility, Mims said. The LRMC emergency department had more than 30,000 patients last year and expects to have 32,000 this year.

“We have the busiest emergency department of a critical access hospital,” she said.

Expanding in the walk-in clinic was done with cutting down on the number of non-emergent visits to the ER, according to Mims.

The hospital also is expanding its oncology services, with Dr. Ajaz Bulbul serving as the medical director “We have a lot of cancer in our county,” Mims said. “People were tired of driving for treatment.”

LRMC’s cardiac rehab program also gets a lot of patients. “We have a lot of cardiac problems in our county,” Mims said. “We have a lot of heart disease.”

Among the hospital’s accomplishments over the last year include a remodel of the cafeteria, now named Borquaye’s Bistro, in honor of longtime OBGYN practitioner Dr. Seth Borquaye. It is open to the public, Mims added.

The remodeled cafeteria was done with the point of giving staff a place to relax and associate.

“I wanted to do something for all of our team members,” Mims said.

The hospital also saved $2.7 million through greater efficiency and spent $2 million on facilities and equipment improvements. The LRMC got a Kaiser Family Foundation grant for $120,000 and completed a grant for $750,000 for improvements to its medical-surgical unit. LRMC also completed a stabilization grant for its perinatal services.

Also getting upgrades is Coastal Manor, the LRMC’s long-term care facility in Long County. The home has 108 beds and has Alzheimer’s/ dementia care capabilities. Mims said they will have an open house next month to show off the new rooms, new beds, new flooring and new furniture.

“This is their home. We want to make it a positive one,” she said.

Work is starting on two other building projects at the LRMC. One is a wound care center, which is expected to be done before the end of the year.

The wound care center, which will have two hyperbaric chambers and a dedicated physician, rose out of the growing number of patients with diabetes.

“If you look at our data for our county, diabetes is taking over our county,” Mims said. “Their wounds are not healing.”

The other construction project is an on-call house for visiting physicians. The duplex will house the visiting doctors comfortably and allow them to be close to the hospital “They’ll be right on the campus,” Mims said.

In addition to highlighting LRMC’s other services, such as its Liberty Family Care and primary care available at the hospital and in Midway, Mims noted the hospital’s economic impact on the community. The hospital provides 281 full-time jobs, with a payroll of $22.58 million and generates $111.6 million in revenue for the state and local economy.

She also emphasized that many of the services and much of the care available at larger hospitals can be found at LRMC.

“I worked in Savannah for a long, long time,” she said. “We might be licensed for 25 beds, but a patient is a patient and I believe we deliver the same amount of care. We know most of our patients. We want to make sure we look the part of a high-quality center. We have more services than most other rural hospitals. We need to promote our local hospital.”

The county has taken over the operation of the EMS from the hospital and Mims said they are going even further to lessen the burden on the ambulances. Instead of calling EMS for an ambulance to transport a patient to another hospital for a higher level of care, LRMC has contracted with an ambulance service to provide that transportation.

“Instead of calling EMS and taking an ambulance out of the county, we have that service. It keeps the county a little bit safer,” she said.

Chief among the hospital’s challenges and current focus is recruitment and retention. Mims pointed out there are scholarships available for those entering the health care field to be employed in rural spots.

But the need for quality workers spans the gamut from doctors and nurses to laboratory technicians and radiological technicians and more.

“We’re looking to recruit and grow our provider base,” she said. “It is hard to get some to move to a rural area. But we’ve been very, very fortunate to recruit and retain some providers.”

Revisions to the state’s certificate of need law — if signed into action — may allow for private surgical centers to set up shop. Mims warned those such centers will seek to treat patients with good insurance plans and leave the hospital to treat the underinsured or those with no insurance.

“If you’re allowing a freestanding surgery center, they don’t have the overhead a hospital has to have,” she said. “They’re not open 24/7. They get to pick and choose their payer mix.”

The health care system is the second-most regulated industry in the U.S., behind only that of nuclear power plants, Mims added.

Behavioral health remains a major concern, Mims said, and while the systems in place are better, an inpatient unit is a need. Mims said the hospital works closely with the Steven A. Cohen Clinic for outpatient services, but inpatient care is imperative.

LRMC also is in the process of applying for a trauma level IV center. Memorial Health University Center is a level I, the only one providing the highest level of trauma care south of Macon. There are level IV centers at the hospitals in Vidalia and Springfield. Mims said there is funding available for the center and for the education the staff needs.

“If we are going to get that, we want to be able to provide that level of care,” she said.

Since it is income tax time as well, Mims said residents can help the hospital through the Georgia HEART program and designate a portion or all of their state income tax to be dedicated to LRMC.

The LRMC is eligible for up to $4 million in Georgia HEART funds.

“You can take the taxes you were going to pay to Georgia and say those dollars are coming to my local hospital,” she said.

For more information on Georgia HEART, visit

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