2007-04-04 / Front Page

Hospital CEO resigns

by Terry Toole

Miller County Hospital CEO Harley Smith has resigned. Miller County Hospital CEO Harley Smith has resigned. Over eight years ago, on March 2, 1999, a man walked into the Liberal office one night as we were attempting to get one more edition together. This was when we worked late into the night getting things together. We were busy, but being thought to be kind to strangers, we stopped and introduced ourselves to this friendly stranger. It was Harley Smith, newly hired CEO for the almost defunct Miller County Hospital.

I must admit that I had my reservations about someone coming to Colquitt to a job that seemed to have limitations of what looked like nothing but bad. I guess I felt so sorry for this newcomer, I told him he could come to the house for the night if he didn't have a place to stay, but he was too young for me to take him in. He graciously thanked me and went on his way.

We had many deep conversations about Colquitt and the hospital. I had never met a real CEO before and wasn't too sure I had when I met Harley Smith.

Like many rural hospitals all over Georgia, our local hospital was having a hard time keeping the doors open. To bring it out of deep debt with very little prospects of doing better seemed like a "mission impossible." Everyone knew that we needed a hospital, but very few used it. This was going to be a miracle to keep the doors open, but this community has seen miracles happen before, and many, many citizens were willing to sacrifice to keep the hospital open.

It didn't take long to find out that a real CEO makes few friends and many enemies. The decisions he has to make are the best for the facility and people he is working for. This does not set too well with many people who were replaced or fired.

This stranger came in and took the reigns of leadership with a pleasant, but firm grip. He started renovating the ER from one room to four, started ultrasound in the radiology department, added a sun porch to the nursing home, helped raise funds to complete renovation of 10 patient rooms at the hospital. This new man was just getting started. He opened a sleep study unit, renovated the resident dining room in the nursing home, opened a mammography unit, purchased C-arm for surgery, improved the labor and delivery unit, installed two separate computer systems, replaced all mattresses in the hospital and nursing home, added another sun porch to the nursing home, renovated the hospital lobby and 11 public bathrooms.

This would be enough to keep the man running our little hospital that now seemed not only to be working, but growing by leaps and bounds. He started a rehabilitation unit that included physical therapy, occupation therapy and speech therapy. A new nurse's call system was installed in the nursing home and the hospital. He supported and helped establish a school of nursing in conjunction with Darton College, helped lead one of the many campaigns to purchase 97 new resident beds in the nursing home, and recently completed a new, spacious hospital wing with 15 new private patient rooms.

Our hospital now offers services that can only be found in some of the very largest hospitals, including MRI, CT and wound care services, a hyperbaric chamber and one of the finest labs in this area of the country, not to mention the recruiting of 10 physicians.

Not only has this CEO shown how to keep the doors of a small, rural hospital open, but has shown how it can be made into a poster child for the entire state and area.

Not only has Harley Smith shown leadership in helping to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars to keep our hospital alive and growing, he has invested heavily into this community as has his lovely wife, Tina.

CEO Smith told the popular Thursday morning Senior Breakfast group about his resignation. He tearfully said that it was one of the hardest decisions he has ever made because he loved Colquitt, his job and this area.

He will be leaving Monday, April 16, to go with an organization named Brim Health Care Management based in Tennessee. Harley and Tina will go to Woodlawn Park, Colorado, where a brand new hospital is being built at the base of Pike's Peak. The location is called "City above the clouds" and is absolutely beautiful," Smith stated.

It is the hope of this community that Harley and Tina will enjoy their new home and that our hospital board will be replacing him with a leader that will carry our hospital to even greater heights in this Miller County flatland.

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