Last week’s town board meeting was a celebratory event in many ways. The Highlands Cashiers Health Foundation introduced the two new doctors that they brought to the plateau in conjunction with their funding and opening of the Highlands/Cashiers Blue Ridge Health Clinic.
Dr. Ann Davis and Dr. Christy Fincher are the new primary care physicians that will be practicing at the new Blue Ridge Health Clinic. The clinic is a federally approved healthcare provider. It serves all patients both young and old.
Dr. Davis told the board that on her first day at the clinic she saw an infant patient and a 95-year-old patient. The clinic is located at the Jane Woodruff Medical Building on the Highlands-Cashiers Hospital campus. In addition to family medicine and pediatrics, the clinic offers pregnancy care, nutrition, case management/health education and assistance with affordable health insurance enrollment.
The plateau now has four primary care physicians. In addition to the doctors at the new clinic, Dr. Patti Wheeler continues to serve as an HCA primary care doctor at the hospital. Dr. Scott Baker operates a private practice here in Highlands. Our community’s concern about having a “doctors desert” should be diminishing with these new developments.
Tom Neal, our hospital CEO, also updated the board on recent developments at the hospital. Three-dimensional mammography equipment is now available, and plans are underway to restart out-patient surgical procedures. In addition, the CNA training program is now underway.
Dennis Wilson came before the board to get the go-ahead to plan and design needed improvements for the Highlands Conference Center kitchen. The plan will be brought back to the board later this year for approval and funding. Part of the funding will come from private support and part will come from the town. The improvements to the kitchen are well overdue. In addition to the kitchen, improvements to the bathrooms will also be made.
The board also heard an update from Jake Petrosky of Stewart Consultants about the status of the Highlands Comprehensive Community Plan. The plan is in the final stages of review by the planning board. A final draft should be available to the town board at their August meeting. I anticipate the town board calling for a public hearing concerning the plan at that meeting. The hearing would occur at the September meeting.
As an elected official, I believe the town board should avoid making major changes to the final draft of the community plan. I have read the current draft. It captures the ideas of the over 1000 citizens and businesses that took the survey and the numerous committees and groups that provided input.
The plan is intended to be a conceptual guide for how Highlanders want this community to address current and future challenges. It is not a policy document, but rather a roadmap with multiple possible routes to achieve certain basic goals.
I suspect the current board, as well as futures boards, in partnerships with other stakeholders like the planning board, will need to prioritize goals and objectives. Considerations such as costs versus benefits on certain initiatives will need to be carefully evaluated. The good news to me is that elected officials will have a better understanding of what the public wants for their community because we will have all participated in this planning process.
- Town of Highlands Mayor Pat Taylor