Dr. Fran Witt:
Dr. Fran Witt: President & CEO of Effingham Health System
Dr. Fran Witt is a woman who likes to acknowledge the people who work around her. Her “healthcare heroes,” as she calls them. This is especially so over the past year. But to listen to her speak, there is little doubt that she is one of those heroes as well.
As President and CEO of Effingham Health System (EHS), Dr. Witt is leading her team to set new benchmarks for rural healthcare—while many other small hospitals across Georgia, and the country, are closing their doors.
“We received the nationally prestigious MCG Health Doyle Award for protocols we developed to manage COVID-19 patients,” says Dr. Witt. “That is the level of innovation and professionalism our staff demonstrated in responding to the pandemic.”
While managing the healthcare crisis, her hospital team also received the first place Patient Safety Award and the Circle of Excellence award from the Georgia Hospital Association’s Partnership for Health and Accountability.
And, even as the COVID-19 crisis dramatically impacted the Effingham Care and Rehabilitation Center, of which Dr. Witt is also Administrator, her nursing home team achieved the Joint Commission’s “High Performing Organization” status.
Ask any of Dr. Witt’s nearly 500 employees what her motto is, and they will say, “Be the change. Lead the change. See the change.” She continues to focus on the healthcare system’s long-term, transformational journey.
In 2020, she introduced Effingham Cardiology, which assures access to cardiac care close to home. For many patients that require cardiology services, that means they can be treated locally and not transported elsewhere for care. She’s also proud that the Effingham Orthopaedics partnership now offers Pain Management services to reduce reliance on pain medication in the community.
Evolving EHS into a healthcare leader means making decisions that will ultimately push the organization forward in its transformational journey. For Dr. Witt, one of the most significant decisions has been her recommendation that EHS purchase the daVinci robotic surgery technology. Dr. Witt says, “At that time, no other Critical Access hospital in Georgia had invested in robotic surgery. But the financial projections made sense, and we are committed to implementing technology. Our board agreed, and we made the decision to invest sooner rather than later.”
That focus on technology and the patient experience is behind a new three-year Digital Transformation, creating a single-source Electronic Health Records ecosystem across the entire healthcare system.
Dr. Witt is impacting rural healthcare at a state and national level as well. She sits on the American Hospital Association’s Rural Health Services Council and several Georgia health care boards. Locally she serves as executive vice-chairman for the Effingham County Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors.
Like other women in business know, timing is not always perfect. Dr. Witt demonstrated her personal and professional resiliency as she found herself in the final stages of her doctoral program while simultaneously leading the pandemic response for the healthcare system and nursing home. She received her Doctor of Nursing Practice degree in Spring 2020.
“I am a deeply spiritual person,” explains Dr. Witt. “That serves me well with the number of critical decisions I have to make every day in healthcare, as a leader, and in my personal life.”
Asked what she would like to say to readers, she said, “Be confident that we (EHS) are committed to providing you Quality Care, Close to Home. Our future is bright, and this coming year will be one to celebrate—our patients, our healthcare workers, and our community—together!”