Category: featured

As part of National Rural Health Day, Guttenberg Municipal Hospital & Clinics today announced it has been recognized with a 2023 Performance Leadership Award for excellence in Patient Perspective. Compiled by the Chartis Center for Rural Health, the Performance Leadership Awards honor top quartile performance (i.e., 75th percentile or above) among rural hospitals in Quality, Outcomes and/or Patient Perspective.

“We continue to receive awards for the care our patients experience here at Guttenberg Municipal Hospital & Clinics. This speaks volumes to the quality of professional staff on our team. We couldn’t be more proud to be here for the communities we serve,” said Tim Ahlers, FACHE, CEO.

The Performance Leadership Awards are based on the results of the Chartis Rural Hospital Performance INDEX®, the industry’s most comprehensive and objective assessment of rural hospital performance. INDEX data is relied upon by rural hospitals, health systems with rural footprints, hospital associations and state offices of rural health around the country to measure and monitor performance across several areas impacting hospital operations and finance.

“Wherever we go in rural America, we witness first-hand the commitment, determination, and compassion with which rural hospitals serve their communities. Rural healthcare truly is mission-driven,” said Michael Topchik, National Leader, The Chartis Center for Rural Health. “This National Rural Health Day, let us recognize the efforts of this year’s Performance Leadership Award winners and all those driven to deliver high quality care throughout rural communities.”

Guttenberg Municipal Hospital & Clinics (GMHC) has been a committed member of the Guttenberg community since its founding more than 60 years ago. A Critical Access Hospital, licensed to deliver acute, skilled, observation and hospice inpatient care, the 25-bed hospital offers a wide range of services to help the community live healthier. GMHC provides primary medical care for patients of all ages through Cornerstone Family Practice with clinics in Guttenberg, Edgewood and Garnavillo. GMHC operates the community ambulance service and supports area trauma care via a state-certified Level IV Community Trauma Center. The Family Resource Center is an extension of GMHC and offers a variety of services to increase access to health and human services for families.

“Guttenberg,” Cathy said without hesitation to the paramedics. It was an easy decision. Her doctors were there, and she was already familiar with the quality care she would receive there. 

It was a very rainy morning on April 22, 2022, when Cathy Wiskus stopped on the way to work for gas in New Vienna. She was walking to the entrance of the store to pay when an SUV hit her on the right side of her body. She recalled being up in the air for a bit before landing on her left side, and noticing that her leg had flopped over. She couldn’t move it. Several people came to attend to her needs, cover her with a coat and call 911. The ambulance quickly arrived, and she was on her way to her requested hospital, Guttenberg Municipal Hospital. 

The accident happened near the end of COVID, when getting a hospital to take on new patients was very difficult. Cathy stayed in the ER at GMHC for most of the day as staff made her as comfortable as possible with a broken femur until they could get her transferred. Finally, she was accepted at the University of Iowa and was transferred there promptly.

Surgery was postponed for four days because the break in her femur was at a difficult angle. The surgeon decided to put in a plate and two screws instead of a rod. Soon after the surgery at UI, physical therapy was started so Cathy could keep active, but not a lot could be done yet with the injured leg.

Shortly after the surgery, she was given the good news that she could return to GMHC, but after testing positive for COVID, the trip would have to wait. What might have been a shorter stay at the U of I turned into a much longer one. Visitors were limited to one per day at that time, so her husband and son had to decide who could see her, and with limited visitors, it was a long and tough stay for Cathy. Her friends helped lift her spirits with frequent calls to check on her progress.

After returning to GMHC as an inpatient for skilled care and seeing her primary care provider, Dr. McCaw, Cathy told him how much she missed the special care that GMHC delivers. “I don’t know where I would be if I couldn’t have received that care here, close to home, from people I know,” she explained, “It was hard being in a big hospital away from family during that time.” He answered Cathy with, “Sometimes a big hospital can do what a little hospital can’t, and other times a little hospital can do what a big hospital can’t.”  

On Mother’s Day, Cathy was still in quarantine, and was worried what kind of day she would have. The nurses were still able to make it a special Mother’s Day for her. “And Lynn, the social worker called me every day in my room to see how I was doing. She couldn’t always come in because of visiting restrictions, but she at least always called.” Cathy added.

Physical Therapy was started when Cathy was in skilled care on the patient care unit, and the realization that it would be a long road to walking again sometimes got her down. But the therapists knew how to keep the mood light while still requiring the needed work of rehabilitation. One day when she looked out the window and saw someone walking across the parking lot, Cathy was especially emotional because at the time, that seemed so out of reach for her. Amber, her Physical Therapist Assistant for the day, reminded her that she would get there one day, too, but she would have to go through the small steps to reach that goal. She told Cathy, “Right now, this is part of your journey, and some day you will be able to reflect on it with more understanding.”

A while later, while working with Physical Therapy Assistant, Sydney, Cathy was asked to walk through the parallel bars without holding them, and when she reached the end, Sydney said, “Keep going and walk alone!” Cathy commented, “She gave me confidence and knew how to make me feel good. Really, the people here have hearts of gold.”

Released from skilled care, Cathy returned to her home in Colesburg in June. Occupational Therapist, Karla, and Amber, PT Assistant, went along to make the home as accessible and safe as they could for Cathy. The ramp was a little hard to navigate with her walker, so a friend lent them a wheelchair so she could be at home to recover.

Sometimes, doing her therapy at home was difficult, just like it could be when she was working with the Physical Therapists, but Cathy’s husband helped her stay motivated so she could reach her goals. During this period of rehab, she had one long-distance visit via the computer with her surgeon in Iowa City. In December, she had an in-person visit with him and he said that she wouldn’t need to come back. He was pleasantly surprised at how well and completely the bone had healed.

Cathy has returned to work and other normal activities with only a lifting pound restriction. She tells others about the care she receives at GMHC, adding, “Everyone knows how I feel about GMHC, because I am always talking about it, and recommending it to others. GMHC is my go-to place for local healthcare!”

“I hadn’t really tried anything for the pain,” she replied. “I was just living with it.”

In November 2022, Judi Althoff, Surgery Receptionist at GMHC, had been experiencing pain in her lower back that just seemed to come out of nowhere. It was a very debilitating pain that caused her to have to get ‘psyched up’ just to get out of a chair. “I would then have to get my bearings and I couldn’t walk without pain and limping, so it took me a long time to get anywhere,” Judi added. “I walk for exercise, and it was taking me 25 minutes to walk a mile.” 

Judi had never had back pain in her life before this, and since there is a pain clinic right here at GMHC where she works, she decided to see if they could help her. They first started with trigger points by placing a needle with steroids and numbing medicine in the area that hurt.

Judi then had an MRI which showed a bulging disc and arthritis in her back. An epidural steroid injection was given to treat the pain in these areas but would take 10-14 days to take effect. Once that pain was under control, a different pain emerged in another area of her lower back. For a while, it was treated with Tylenol and Ibuprofen. Lumbar X-rays revealed that a facet joint in her spine was pressing on a nerve and causing the pain.

The next step was to test her left side, since there was more pain on that side which also traveled down her leg. A numbing agent was injected that lasted for 3-4 hours. If her pain stayed away, the test would be repeated. After two successful attempts to keep the pain controlled, she was a candidate for radio frequency treatment (RF).

For the RF treatment, needles were inserted into the nerve that was causing pain, the nerve was “burned” and the pain disappeared. After about a week, Judi’s pain was completely gone. That was in March 2023. Now in October 2023, she remains pain-free. If the pain should return within two years of treatment, she can have the RF again without going through all the pre-testing.

“It is so nice to have this treatment available,” Judi commented. “It has helped me significantly because I am no longer living with all that pain and discomfort. I would recommend anyone with unwanted pain to check out the Pain Clinic at GMHC.” 

The Guttenberg Municipal Hospital & Clinics’ Family Resource Center is proud to announce that Jim Solomon, SHIIP-SMP Counselor at the Family Resource Center, recently received a Governor’s Volunteer Award from Governor Kim Reynolds and Lt. Governor Adam Gregg during a special recognition ceremony held on Tuesday, June 6, in Cedar Falls. Solomon was honored with a 5 year service award by Senior Health Insurance Information Program (SHIIP) and Senior Medicare Patrol (SMP).

Jim began his training in the spring of 2018, and completed it later that summer. During his first open enrollment period in the fall, he spent 119 hours with 117 clients, helping them save a total of $46,114, an average of $394 per client. Over the past five years, Jim has provided meaningful assistance by sharing his knowledge and providing guidance to individuals, families and caregivers on how to navigate their Medicare and identify plans and resources that work for them. He has also spent countless hours in training.

“Iowans take great pride in their deep and rich commitment for serving others—it’s in our DNA,” Gov. Reynolds said. “Iowa nice is the foundation of our state–you see it everywhere you turn– Iowans volunteering their time to help others and improve their communities and our state. It truly is an honor to be able to recognize these individuals for their meaningful acts of generosity through the Governor’s Volunteer Awards and inspire others to do the same.”

Kari Harbaugh, Coordinator at the Family Resource Center, also shared her congratulations stating, “We are so fortunate to have Jim as a SHIIP volunteer, he goes above and beyond for the clients he serves!”

Kristen Griffith, SHIIP-SMP Director, shares “SHIIP-SMP Counselors are some of the best volunteers and people you could ever work with. They care deeply about their community members, and consistently go above and beyond to provide unbiased and trustworthy information helping individuals and their families navigate the complexity of Medicare.”

More than 500 awards are being presented this year during five ceremonies across Iowa. It is estimated that more than 150 communities in Iowa were served by this year’s honorees. Coordinated by Volunteer Iowa, the Governor’s Volunteer Award program—now in its 39th year—provides an easy way for Iowa nonprofits, charitable organizations, and government entities to honor their volunteers with a prestigious, state-level award. A complete list of award recipients and an electronic copy of this news release are available at

What is SHIIP? The Senior Health Insurance Information Program (SHIIP) is a free and objective Medicare health insurance counseling service of the State of Iowa Insurance Division sponsored locally by GMHC’s Family Resource Center. More than 350 trained and certified volunteer counselors assist thousands of Iowans annually, helping them save millions of dollars.

What is SMP? The Senior Medicare Patrol is a national program focused on empowering seniors to prevent and respond to health care fraud. SMP is administered by the Administration for Community Living (ACL). Our network of SHIIP -SMP counselors help individuals detect and report possible Medicare fraud, errors and abuse. The program also provides resources for consumers to protect themselves from healthcare scams.

If you would like to make a free appointment with our SHIIP Counselors, please call the Family Resource Center 563-252-3215.

April is Organ Donor Awareness month. Former GMHC employee, and current GMHC volunteer, Mary Waterman, recently shared a touching story about her mother, an organ donor, who was from the Greeley area.

Doris (Bissell, Dingbaum) Malicoat, otherwise known as farmwife, mother, and even “the cake lady” (Dorie’s Cakes), left quite an unexpected legacy…that of being an organ donor. Even though she had it clearly marked on her driver’s license for many years, the ripple effect was not fully felt by others until after she died. 

In her early life, Doris worked in a department store when her kids were small. They moved to a century farm near Petersburg where she did a lot of work, including all the morning milking, and raising her four children. She began making cakes for the kids’ birthdays, and then started collecting Wilton pans (365 of them) and selling her cakes. In her busiest year, she baked and decorated 366 cakes! She was featured in the Gazette for her cookies, cakes and collection of cake pans! 

Later in life, she mainly baked cookies for sale and to give away. She would ask the care center what they needed, and then make it and drop it off. The patients and staff at the Veteran’s Hospital enjoyed trays of her cookies at Christmas time, too. Her favorite cookie to decorate was a Santa face cookie. She would always go to her 10-year class reunions with a cake to celebrate and attended the last one with the only other two remaining classmates. 

In 2018, when Doris died, the family honored her by including her cookie recipe in the thank you cards they sent after the funeral. Although none of her grandkids have picked up the cake decorating knack yet, she handed down another thoughtful practice to her offspring. Many of her children and grandchildren signed up to be organ donors by designating it on their licenses. The decision to donate skin is not something that a person can designate ahead of time.

Years ago, when speaking about organ donation, Doris said, “Someone might as well have what they can use, because when I’m gone, I won’t be able to use it anymore!” As she neared the end of her life, her comment was, “They probably won’t even want anything now, because nothing works anymore!” Little did she know…this kind, caring woman who had lived 88 years would still be helping dozens of people, even after her death. 

A letter from the donor network arrived at her son’s home about six months after Doris had died. Mary learned that her mother’s organ donation—mostly skin and tissue—had helped 61 different people! Her family was astonished! They knew that her donation would make a difference for a handful of people, but they had not imagined that it would be so many. Dorie’s selfless act provided skin and tissue for breast reconstructions following mastectomies and temporary ‘skin bandages’ for burn victims, allowing their own skin to regenerate underneath. Other uses for harvested skin include replacing skin and tissue that has been severely traumatized or infected, or tissue that needs to be replaced because of skin cancer.  

So, the end of Doris’s life reflected the way she lived. She gave of herself to help others. What an honorable trait to pass on. 


Following are some things you may not know about skin donation:

  • Skin is the largest organ of the body.
  • Skin can be donated within 6 hours of the time of death.
  • There is a total of eight layers of skin, but only 1/8 (the uppermost layer of 0.3 mm) is harvested. 
  • The skin is only taken from the back, thighs and legs and does not in any way disfigure the body.
  • There is no bleeding from the site where skin is harvested from, and doctors bandage the parts where skin was taken.
  • Donor skin can be effectively frozen and stored for up to five years.
  • Blood, skin color or age do not have to be matched. Any person’s skin can be transplanted to another person. 
  • Burn victims receive skin when over 50% of their body has been burned. In 80% of such cases, patients can be saved if sufficient skin is present in skin banks. 

April is Donate Life month. Please become an organ donor today!

The before and after photos of Duaine Palas’ legs are hard to believe!

While reading the Spring 2022 issue of GMHC’s “Keeping You Well” newsletter, Duaine Palas realized there may be hope for his legs. The article featured a patient who had found relief for his legs through Lymphedema Therapy offered through the Therapy Services department at GMHC. Everything Duaine was reading described his condition, prompting him to call GMHC.

After first seeing Dr. McCaw at Cornerstone Family Practice for various testing, Duaine was referred for Lymphedema Therapy with Physical Therapist Kimberly Franzen, GMHC’s Certified Lymphedema Therapist. Lymphedema is chronic swelling that results from damage to the lymphatic system. The lymphatic system filters excess fluid through lymph nodes to remove bacteria and debris from the body. When the system is damaged, fluid can build up under the skin, usually in the arms and legs. 

Lymphedema can occur after cancer treatment, infection, surgery, venous insufficiency, or injury. Duaine’s may have resulted from an old farm injury. His swollen legs had been bothering him for years, but he didn’t know what to do about it. Duaine began his therapy sessions on July 7, 2022, and remembered doubting, “There’s just no way this is going to work with my legs, they are not going to respond to the therapy, they are just too far gone.”

But, Franzen proved him wrong. Duaine began therapy with 3 to 4 sessions per week. His treatment included manual lymphatic drainage, exercises and compression wrapping to help reduce swelling and return skin to a more normal condition. During the early stages of therapy, Franzen used short, flexible bandages (changed at every appointment) to wrap Duaine’s lower legs. As his legs became less severe, and reached a certain size reduction the wrap changed to a Velcro one, and as therapy progressed, compression stockings (from the toes to just below the knees) replaced the use of the bandages and the Velcro straps. 

Duaine’s therapy lasted through most of September and was an amazing success. Duaine continues to exercise, wear compression stockings to control the lymphedema, removing them at night and elevating his legs, and regularly checks the skin for ulcers. Since he learned how to take care of his lymphedema from Franzen during his therapy visits, he knows what the signs are that would require him to come for a re-assessment or for more therapy. He commented, “It was really nice to be able to wear my dress pants again. The only thing I could wear were sweatpants, and because my swelling was so bad, I could hardly fit into my shoes.” 

Picture this:  Duaine had an overall size reduction of 26.3% in his left leg, which was smaller to start with, and in his more severe right leg, the overall reduction in size was 34.5%! These numbers are truly amazing, and show just how much progress is possible with lymphedema therapy. 

Duaine is quick to thank Kim Franzen and Dr. McCaw for their careful attention to his care and commented that Franzen was very helpful and taught him a lot about self-care for his lymphedema. He commented, “This therapy was truly life-changing for me! I am active again, and I have a lot to be thankful for. I would encourage anyone who thinks they might have lymphedema to talk to their doctor and come to GMHC for their therapy.”

During this process, an additional health concern was discovered from tests that one of the providers ordered. Originally given to detect if the lymphedema was caused by a heart issue, the test found that Duaine had a 5 cm aneurism and a faulty heart valve. He will undergo surgery in May of 2023, to have it replaced with a biological valve. Duaine commented, “And just think, if I hadn’t come here for treating my legs, I would have never known about the problem with my heart.” Duaine complimented GMHC for the excellent care here, and for the thoroughness of the staff.

In May of 2020, while isolating during the COVID pandemic, Michelle Geuder discovered a lump on the side of her right breast during her routine shower protocol. At first, she thought it was an irritation from her bra, but something inside told her it was more. “Somehow, I already knew what it was,” she recalled. When Dr. Smith called with her mammogram results, she wasn’t too surprised that something had shown up on the scans. Since the next day was her birthday and wedding anniversary, Michelle waited until Monday for the follow-up appointment. An ultrasound and a biopsy confirmed that she had ER positive, PR positive, Her2 negative Breast Cancer.

Dr. Smith encouraged Michelle to get a second opinion, which she obtained at Mayo Clinic in La Crosse, WI, from an oncologist who had been recommended by her sister, through first-hand experience. The results were confirmed. Michelle returned to GMHC to consult with surgeon, Dr. Mansfield. Because she was at Stage 1A, her options included a lumpectomy or a mastectomy. Wanting the best results for her and her family, Michelle chose the mastectomy. Michelle’s brother-in-law stepped in to work with her insurance company until they agreed to let her be treated at Mayo. The July 1 (2020) surgery took place at Mayo Clinics in La Crosse. Her husband was allowed to be there but waited in the car during surgery because of the pandemic guidelines.

Michelle’s mastectomy included removal of most of the lymph nodes in her right arm, and several from her left arm, which thankfully, showed no cancer. Michelle and her husband both learned a lot following her surgery, including how to empty her four drains. Her follow-up treatment began in August (2020) with 16 weeks of chemotherapy (every other week) in La Crosse. Her husband was a great help during this time, driving her to appointments and being supportive.

Although Michelle’s oncologist wanted her pre-chemo appointments (also every other week), like COVID tests, blood tests, and cleaning of her port, to be done at Mayo, Michelle insisted on going to GMHC for these services saving her time, miles, and money. She commented, “I really wanted to have as much done here, as close to home, as possible. It was helpful for me to be assisted by people I was familiar with, like Jeannie Funk in the surgery department, and Lana Troester and Heidi Bolsinger from Patient Accounts, who served as my patient advocates with insurance questions and pre-authorizations. They were all a great help!”

When radiation was delayed in January of 2021, again due to insurance, Michelle’s radiation doctors worked with the insurance company to get her treatment covered.  For thirty days straight, excluding weekends, Michelle drove herself to Mayo in La Crosse for radiation treatment. “The trip to La Crosse is a two hour drive each way, so this was a difficult time,” Michelle admitted. The radiation was very rough on her skin. She was expecting a sunburn-like redness and peeling, but it was much worse. When the treated bandages came off, so did her skin, and it was like starting over every day. Consequently, the healing time from the radiation took much longer than normal. 

The extensive damage to Michelle’s skin caused the reconstructive surgery date to be postponed twice; in August 2021 and January 2022. Radiation and inactivity with her right side had left a stiff, numb, lumpy mass of skin, and prompted concerns that the surgery may not even be possible. Her radiation doctors and the plastic surgeon suggested Lymphedema Therapy to regain some movement and decrease her swelling to improve the feeling within and around her surgery site. 

Prior to this time, Michelle had read an article about Physical Therapist Kimberly Franzen’s certification in Lymphedema Therapy. At the time, she didn’t think it applied to her condition, but a referral from Dr. Smith allowed Michelle to see Franzen in January. Franzen was able to use Lymphedema Therapy to perform manual lymph drainage on the tissue and increase circulation, helping Michelle regain feeling, movement, and overall improved health at the surgery site.

All of Michelle’s care providers were impressed at the level of improvement after only four weeks of therapy. In March of 2022, Michelle felt much better, both feeling and seeing the therapy results, and was finally able to schedule the reconstructive surgery. “I recommend Kim Franzen to everyone who might need lymphedema therapy. She walked me through the steps and taught me how to do it myself, and my lymphedema continues to improve. Kim is so personable and really cares about her patients,” said Michelle. “It was incredible to see the therapy making such a difference even in the appearance of the skin, which helped me push past some of the devastation I was feeling after surgery. I had no idea that lymphedema therapy could do that!” 

Throughout this very difficult journey when Michelle thought about complaining, she would remind herself that she was lucky to be breathing, which helped her keep things in perspective. She was even able to stop at a few of her daughter’s basketball games while traveling home from appointments, which gave her something to look forward to. Michelle said, “I feel as though I’m a strong person, but I also have a strong support system.” Family and the tight-knit community stepped up to help, donated money, and had a fundraiser for her. Michelle remained working, which helped her place focus on something besides her health. Her boss was very understanding about her needs and allowed her to keep a flexible work schedule.

Michelle will continue her monthly injections along with taking a daily pill for the next three years to complete her treatment. Every October, during Breast Cancer Awareness month, she urges others to have their yearly mammogram to help catch problems early, and she is an advocate for self-checks.

When asked how she would describe the care she received at GMHC, she replied, “The care here was stellar! It is on-par with any treatment you would get at a bigger hospital, and without all the hassle. My primary care doctor at GMHC communicated easily with my oncologist because they are on the same computer network. I can’t say enough about the quality care I received here, and how thankful I am that it is only two blocks from my home.”

In closing, Michelle reflected, “In April of 2020, when we were all isolated and shut down, I drove by the hospital, and thought to myself, ‘I’m glad that at least I’m not in there right now’…and then I was… It turns out that this was a very good place for me to be!”

Meet two young philanthropists, Alexis (age 9) and Grace (age 7) Mescher, who are learning the ropes of fund-raising at an early age. Three years ago, they held their first bake sale, after deciding (with Mom’s help) that a drive thru breakfast sandwich fund-raiser might be a little unrealistic. 

Grace and Alexis wanted to raise money for something, and again, their Mom, Beth Mescher, helped them decide to use it for school supplies. The first year, they raised around $600 during a very successful sale that was planned for two days, but only lasted about two hours! Beth even started baking extra cookies when she saw that they were selling out so quickly!

The second year was even more successful with a one-day sale raising around $1,000. In their most recent bake sale last month, the total reached $2,600! The girls decided to split the profits between the Family Resource Center, where it would be used for school supplies, and the Guttenberg Care Center, for buying supplies needed for activities. Both organizations gladly accepted their donations! “The girls’ donation came at the perfect time! We needed additional funds, and because of gifts like theirs, we were able to serve 100 more kids this year. I’m so proud of these girls!” commented Family Resource Center Coordinator, Kari Harbaugh. 

The Mescher Girls’ bake sale takes place in late July or early August, depending on Mom’s work schedule. When asked how they feel about all the money being given away, and none kept for themselves, Grace replied, “Good,” and Alexis echoed, “Generous!” However, after they realized it was this easy to raise money, they asked about having one when they’re older to raise money for buying a car! After answering, “No!” Beth used the opportunity to explain the difference between a fundraiser to benefit the community, and one to benefit themselves, and that likely, their events had been so successful because they were benefiting the community. Thank you, Beth, Alexis and Grace for setting such a great example for all of us!

Fun Facts:

Most popular items:  apple crisp, Texas Roadhouse buns and butter, and popcorn

Your favorite items to make:  Alexis – cookie dough balls, and Grace – Rice Krispie treats

How many days to prepare?  Cookie dough balls can be done a week ahead and frozen, but everything else is prepared just days before the sale. 

How long will you keep doing it? “Hopefully every year,” both girls chimed in.

Guttenberg Municipal Hospital & Clinics was recently named one of the top 20 critical access hospitals (CAHs) for Best Practice—Patient Satisfaction in the country. 

The top 20 CAHs, including GMHC, scored best among CAHs as determined by the Chartis Center for Rural Health for Patient Satisfaction. The rankings were recently announced by the National Rural Health Association (NRHA). An awards ceremony will be held during NRHA’s Critical Access Hospital Conference in September in Kansas City, MO. 

The top 20 CAHs have achieved success in overall performance based on a composite rating from eight indices of strength:  inpatient market share, outpatient market share, quality, outcomes, patient perspective, cost, charge and finance. This group was selected from the Chartis Center for Rural Health’s 2022 top 100 CAH list, which was released earlier this year. 

The top 20 CAH best practice recipients have achieved success in one of two key areas of performance:  

Quality index:  A rating of hospital performance based on the percentile rank across rural-relevant process of care measures.

Patient perspective index:  A rating of hospital performance based on the percentile rank across all 10 HCAHPS domains. 

“GMHC is proud of the efforts of the physicians and staff who have contributed to our hospital achieving this designation,” says Timothy Ahlers, CEO. “We are incredibly proud of our staff. We are blessed to have a team of professionals with high standards who care deeply about each and every patient and our entire community.”

“Our results as a top Best Practice Recipient in Patient Satisfaction means our community can count on us to deliver the services they need now and in the future,” said Ahlers.

About NRHA

NRHA is a nonprofit organization working to improve the health and well-being of rural Americans and provide leadership on rural health issues through advocacy, communications, education and research. NRHA’s membership is made up of diverse individuals and organizations from across the country, all of whom share the common bond of an interest in rural health. 

About the Chartis Group

The Chartis Group provides comprehensive advisory services and analytics to the health care industry. With unparalleled depth of expertise in strategic planning, performance excellence, health analytics, informatics and technology, digital and emerging technologies, clinical quality and operations, and strategic communications, Chartis helps leading academic medical centers, integrated delivery networks, children’s hospitals, and health care service organizations achieve transformative results and build a healthier world. For more information, visit

By Dr. Michele Dikkers, Physician at Cornerstone Family Practice and GMHC, Chair of Clayton County Board of Health

Growing up we had to be about dead before we went to the doctor.  Slap a bandage on it, put menthol vapor rub on your chest or put an ice bag on it.  A runny nose, sniffles or a cough was no reason to stay home.

Then we learned about COVID.  Now we stop and wonder.  Could it be a cold? Influenza? Strep throat? Mono? COVID?  Oh my.

Since COVID-19, the guidelines have changed.  If you are sick, stay home.  Get tested.  Wait until you are well, then return to the world.  Like any habit, it is difficult to make change.  But there are good reasons for the changes in our thought process.

Symptoms can be similar initially, but the outcomes can be very different.  They can all start with cough, body aches, fever, headache and sore throat.  But influenza and COVID may have a more serious end result.

Incubation time (time from exposure until symptoms start) is typically 1-4 days, unless it is COVID, then it can be 2-14 days.

With most of these illnesses, you can be contagious for 2 days prior to illness and for 3-5 days after illness starts.  With COVID, you may be contagious from 2 days prior to illness and up to 10 days after illness onset (up to 14-21 if with persistent symptoms or severe illness).

Symptoms last for 3-7 days, with the exception of COVID.  Symptoms of COVID, on average, last 1-6 weeks.  There can be long term symptoms that may last months after the acute illness is over.

When it comes to hospitalizations, 2% of those diagnosed with influenza will be hospitalized for 4-7 days, compared to 19% of the COVID diagnosis’ needing hospitalizations for 2-3 weeks.

Fatality rate of influenza is 0.1%, while the fatality rate of COVID-19 is nearly 3%.

Treatments for these illnesses vary.  There are antivirals for influenza, antibiotics for strep throat, monoclonal antibodies for COVID and, coming soon, the new oral medication recently developed to help decrease hospitalizations and deaths from COVID.  All depend on starting treatment sooner than later.  Treatment for influenza should be started within the first 72 hours.  Treatment for COVID-19 should be within the first 7 -10 days.  Treatment for influenza and COVID are to decrease severity of symptoms and won’t cure it but can significantly reduce need for hospitalizations and death as an outcome.

So, rethinking how we think about cold symptoms, the new recommendations are to stay home if you have any symptoms.   Be seen by your medical provider and get tested.  Getting tested allows for the best treatment options to be offered and improve outcomes.

Continue to be vigilant and continue to avoid getting sick.  Stay home if you are sick, continue with good hand washing, cover your nose and mouth when you cough and sneeze, wear a mask when you are in public places and update your vaccines.

Stay safe, be well and be kind to each other.