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Effingham Magazine


story by Katrice Williams

Gaynell Miller is presently the Interim Chief Nursing Officer (CNO) for Effingham Health System (EHS). Actually, Gaynell commutes weekly from the Atlanta Metropolitan Area, where she has lived most of her life. With over 40 years of noteworthy healthcare experience, Gaynell was an optimal fit for her current role. In fact, she is a retired Vice President of Patient Care Services from an Atlanta hospital. After retiring, Gaynell started a professional consulting business within the healthcare arena. As the Interim CNO, Gaynell is responsible for “all patient care that is provided throughout the organization,” including overseeing and insuring the proper implementation of policies, standards, procedures and consistent practices.

Gaynell is responsible for managing patient care, which also includes the EHS Cancer Care Center, “an outpatient clinic operated within the main hospital.” The center has been servicing the community since May 2017. EHS has a managing partnership with Summit Cancer Care Service (Summit), which provides hematology and medical oncology services for the clinic. Through the partnership, EHS has attained a true asset in Summit— an organization with the structure for managing cancer patients, along with having established providers, policies and procedures. The clinic’s hematology and oncology services focus on any blood disorders and cancers of the blood or tissues.

Chemotherapy infusions, which make up the majority of treatments, are included. Further, patients undergo routine visits with oncologists. The ultimate goal of the cancer care center includes striving to move the patients to a cancer-free state by managing their care, supporting them and providing all aspects of care and treatment throughout their journey. Gaynell emphasizes how important patient safety is to EHS; the clinic itself is driven to consistently employing zero-harm initiatives, along with striving to eliminate various risk factors, as the medical professionals are concerned with the safety and success of every procedure that is performed.

“It’s not just focusing on the disease. It’s also focusing on lifestyle changes because of the cancer. The needs are unique for each individual patient. We work with them to provide excellent care so that it’s personalized for our patients,” Gaynell stated. The professionals at the clinic are driven to help each patient establish and maintain a good quality of life throughout their treatment and help them “develop a plan to adjust” in the most effective ways possible.

“We work with patients to come up with a treatment plan that’s based on their unique situation. We really try to help the patients stay strong and continue to have the best state of well-being that they can have throughout their treatment,” Gaynell added. The cancer center has been a tremendous benefit to the community; it is dedicated to providing patients and their families with top-notch service through understanding their needs in such a delicate time. Patients, too, are grateful and relieved that they can receive the medical care needed within their community. “We definitely wanted to offer the service for the community. It’s such a great thing for the patients and their families. Before the program was here, patients had to drive to Savannah. There’s so much that goes along with cancer, survival and treatment that it’s so much more convenient to be close to home,” Gaynell stated. In addition, the clinic has taken tremendous pride in establishing a very home-like environment, where a “close-knit community” of care-givers becomes like family.

“That home feeling just gives so much more support and so much more connectivity,” Gaynell said. In fact, the staff understands the importance of supporting the entire family, as their role in the patient’s care is crucial; therefore, providing support and stability for every family throughout the process is considered to be of utmost significance.

“That family support is so important; it’s part of treating the patient, and we focus on treating the entire patient rather than one aspect of their condition,” Gaynell remarked. The entire staff, and providers at the clinic are certainly a great value-added part of the patient experience. The team feels connected with the people who come for care and rallies around them, wanting to create the best experience for them and their families.

“That’s what I think we do well, and it resonates throughout the organization. Patients can always judge how well we treat them,” she added. The incredible growth that the cancer center has experienced this past year is not surprising, especially with their standards of quality and excellence. The center experienced a 206% increase in treatments over the past year, as there were approximately 370 treatments performed from May 2017-December 2017 compared to 1,133 performed for that same period of time in 2018. Actually, a total of 1,423 treatments were administered in 2018. Beginning February 5th, the clinic will be opened four days each week compared to its usual three days. To accommodate the growth, EHS is planning to move the cancer care center into a larger facility on campus, which should be ready to occupy in early 2020. This will provide an even more spacious and comfortable environment to meet the patient’s needs. The clinic welcomes all patients in need of cancer care. Voted best hospital in the Coastal Empire (Savannah Morning News), the only 4-star rated CMS (Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services) in the Coastal Empire, along with being a level 4 trauma center” and one of 12 designated remote treatment stroke centers in the state, Effingham Health System wants to be the go-to place in this community for all healthcare needs. Under the leadership of CEO Fran Baker-WITT, the senior leadership and entire team are committed to providing high quality care as well as an outstanding patient experience.


Jane Hughes is somewhat of an icon in Effingham County. She has been in the mortgage business for over 35 years. She has owned her own company for 28 years, International Mortgage, which is the oldest mortgage company in our county. To have survived that industry over the past 28 years, you must be a fighter. And, Jane Hughes is just that … a fighter. Jane's biggest fight came in June of 2017, the fight for her life. She was diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer. According to Jane, stage 4 Colon cancer is not curable, but it is treatable. Dr. Alison Spellman of Summit Cancer Care was brought in as Jane's Oncologist. Dr. Spellman treats patients at the Cancer Care Center at Effingham Health System. "I'm Jane Hughes I'm proud to be an Effingham County resident. I received all my treatments at the Cancer Care Center in Effingham. I'm thrilled about this Cancer Care Center. I knew that when I had to go through this chemotherapy, my number one priority was, can I please take my treatments in Effingham. Being able to have my treatments done at home, in Effingham County has been a God send. If I had to rate the level of care that I received at the Cancer Care Center on a scale of 1 to 10. I would give a 10 plus. I wouldn't go anywhere else to get my treatments than Effingham Cancer Care Center. This center has been a complete blessing to me." Effingham Cancer Care Practice Professionally Staffed by Summit Cancer Care Physicians The Cancer Care Center provides medical oncology services and chemotherapy. Extensively trained, medical oncologists will oversee care, including advanced treatment options. For residents of Effingham who are dealing with cancer, care close to home makes it easier for patients - and their families - to focus on healing. Patients receive personalized care, save hours of time in transit , and benefit from a professional support system within our own community. The Cancer Care Center is licensed to administer chemotherapy. They have created a comfortable place with a caring, professional team that is focused on you. If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with cancer, they welcome you to call us to arrange a tour.