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History of Three Rivers

Around the turn of the century the standard practice in rural Georgia was that of the family physician making house calls, when summoned, to minister to the needs of the sick at home.  Transportation for the doctor was usually by horse and buggy, horseback, train or later the automobile.  During the 1920’s and 1930’s physicians built hospitals or clinics to bring their patients in for treatment from the farther areas, but continued to make house calls to the more affluent and those close in.

By the 1970’s, the days of the family doctor making house calls were only a fondly remembered activity of the past.

In the mid 1970’s, Mrs. Elizabeth Smyly Martin of Eastman, mother of Hal M. Smith, Jr. and Claire Smyly Martin Jones, experienced a three year bout with terminal cancer including many hospital stays.  Hal’s wife Kaye Burnham Smith, a registered nurse spent countless hours nursing her mother-in-law at home during her extended illness.  Mrs. Martin would ask on occasion “What happens to other people who are at home sick as I am and do not have a nurse in the family?”  While there was no good, ready answer to Mrs. Martin’s question, it lingered hauntingly in the mind of her daughter-in-law, nurse, Kaye.

At that time, Kaye was a Dodge County Public Health Nurse and had been involved in some limited home health work but wanted to do more.  The combination of her love for health care in the home and seeking the answer to Mrs. Martin’s question sparked her decision to become a provider of Home Health care.

The process began in 1978 with Kaye researching the professional health care aspects of the envisioned business and her husband, Hal, delving into the regulatory, financial, legal and administrative requirements.  During this time they made many inquiries, contacts and visits to governmental regulatory agencies, health care providers and institutions preparatory to formulating the business.  They wanted a partner and turned to LaMae Smith Williams, originally from Waycross Georgia, a registered nurse who had done private duty nursing for Hal’s mother, Mrs. Martin, during the final four months of her illness.

After considerable preparation and meeting all regulatory requirements, Three Rivers Home Health Services, Inc. became a Georgia not-for-profit corporation headquartered in Dodge County April 17, 1979 and opened for business June 1, 1979, as a certified Medicare Home Health Agency.  The service area included seven counties, Bleckley, Dodge, Laurens, Pulaski, Telfair, Wheeler and Wilcox.

The original Board of Directors was composed of Kaye B. Smith, R.N., President, LaMae S. Williams, R.N., Vice President, Hal M. Smith, Jr., Secretary-Treasurer, James R. Williams, Jr. and James H. Tison, M.D.  Dr. Tison was also elected to serve as Medical Director of the company.

One regulatory requirement was for the company to have a group of professional personnel, including appropriate community representation, serve as advisors to the agency.  The original Three Rivers Professional Advisory Board consisted of William J. Steele, Chairman, Ben Williams, Laura Mullis, June Williams, R.N., The Rev. J.R. Daniel, Dr. James H. Tison, Hal M. Smith, Jr., Kaye B. Smith, R.N., James R. Williams, Jr., LaMae S. Williams, R.N. and Jean Jun, R.N.

The initial employees of Three Rivers were Kaye B. Smith, R.N., LaMae S. Williams, R.N., Nursing Directors and Hal M. Smith, Jr., Executive Director.  Later, in June 1979, Jan Graham Williams of Chester was employed part time as secretary, followed in July by Sylvia G. Stuckey, Nurses Aide.  On October 9, 1979 Mrs. Stuckey met an untimely death due to an automobile accident.  This sad occasion was a tragic loss to her family and the new company.  The Professional Advisory Board and the Board of Directors passed, published and recorded a joint resolution of tribute to Mrs. Stuckey for her life of service to others.

The first few months of business were a struggle until the District Department of Public Health made a management decision to discontinue providing Home Health Care.  The transfer of patients from the Bleckley, Dodge, Laurens, Wheeler and Wilcox County Public Health Departments to Three Rivers gave the new company the impetus it needed to become a viable provider.

Initially the company provided only skilled nursing and home health aide services.  November 9, 1979 the company began accepting Medicaid patients and later that month offered the first physical therapy services and considered the possibility of opening branch offices in other cities.

January 12, 1981 marked a significant occasion for the future success of the new company.  On that day, Three Rivers made its first expansion outside Dodge County by opening an office in Dublin, the largest city in its seven county service area.  This greatly improved the company’s ability to deliver health care to patients in their respective places of residence in Laurens and Wheeler Counties.  The physicians of Dublin were supportive of this initiative by the company, ensuring the success of this venture.  Dr. Joseph E. Carruth of Dublin was appointed Medical Director for Laurens County.

The need for additional space in the Eastman office was apparent by 1982 and before the end of that year Three Rivers purchased and renovated “The Clinic” building, 201 Foster Street originally built in 1934 by local physician Dr. J. Cox Wall as a hospital for his patients.  The move was made into the much needed space in November 1982.

The year 1982 also signaled a change in the corporate Board of Directors.  Due to a new governmental regulatory restriction concerning referring physicians serving as a member of a Home Health Agency governing body and as Medical Director, Dr. James H. Tison chose to vacate his seat on the Board of Directors and continue as Medical Director in November 1982.  At the December 1, 1982 Board of Directors meeting, William J. Steele, of Eastman, was elected to serve as a director of the corporation, filling the vacated seat.
The company opened a second branch office in Cochran in January 1984 to provide better service to patients in Bleckley and Pulaski counties.

For Three Rivers, 1988 was a banner year.  After the initial start up period 1979 – 1981 the company experienced six years of moderate, steady growth until 1988 when the trend changed to significant increases in patient referrals and patient visits.  A branch office was opened in May in Abbeville to serve patients in Wilcox County and portions of Dodge and Telfair Counties.  And of great importance, after about two years of preparation Three Rivers Home Health Services, Inc. became the parent company of Three Rivers of Houston County, Inc., headquartered in Perry, Georgia and licensed by the State of Georgia to provide Home Health Services in Houston, Peach and Macon Counties.  An office was opened in Perry, Georgia in August 1988 with a full line of services offered.  By 1993 Three Rivers of Houston County, Inc. had branch offices in Warner Robins and Fort Valley.

To accommodate increased administrative requirements, Three Rivers acquired and renovated the old Eastman Post Office, built in 1935, on Main Street, moving in September 1991.  This building retains much of the historical appearance of its past and serves as the Administrative Office of the company.

After its initial start up, Three Rivers has enjoyed considerable growth.  The lion’s share of growth came during the five year period of 1988 to 1993.  January 1, 1988 the company employed 35 people and five years later, January 1, 1993, it employed a total of 130 people.   Three Rivers responded to continued growth in 1992 by building an entirely new 4,000 square foot facility in Dublin.  The new Dublin branch office was occupied in May and is located at 205 Industrial Boulevard in the heart of Dublin’s medical community, directly across the street from Fairview Park Hospital.  It is a “state of the art” home health facility, designed to facilitate the team nursing approach to home heath.  At the time the new Dublin office was opened there were 35 employees assigned to that office – the same number as the total employment of the company just four year previous!

Through the years, Three Rivers has not been without its share of difficulties and even tragic times.  Two occasions in particular, were the flood of July, 1994 and the extensive fire which destroyed most of the interior of the Dublin office also in July 1994.  Both situations demanded the limits of resources and teamwork of the employees and management to overcome such obstacles.  This was done in good fashion and Three Rivers is stronger today for overcoming such adversities.  The flood disrupted services but did not damage any agency property.  In due course, the water subsided and operations returned to normal.  The Dublin office relocated to adequate space in downtown Dublin the day of the fire, then moved back into the completely restored office in May 1995.

January 1, 1995 the company opened a branch office in Helena, Georgia to better serve the patients residing in Telfair and Wheeler counties.  In the spring of 1995, Three Rivers received accreditation with commendation for a three year period from Joint Commission on Accreditation of Health Care Organizations (JCAHO).  This represented a culmination of company wide teamwork involving every employee over an extended period of time.

February 1, 1996 Three Rivers Home Health Services, Inc. converted from a not-for-profit to a for-profit Georgia corporation.  The change had no effect on any aspect of the company other than financial and accounting.  The company’s mission, philosophy, delivery of services and the manner of conducting business remains the same.  On May 23, 1996 Three Rivers of Houston Co., Inc received a Certificate of Need (CON) to provide services to Bibb County.

Effective September 1, 1996 Paracelsus Macon County Medical Center, Inc., doing business as Flint River Community Hospital of Montezuma, Georgia., purchased Three Rivers of Houston Co, Inc., serving Bibb, Houston, Macon and Peach counties.  This transaction had no effect on the original company, Three Rivers Home Health Services, Inc., Eastman, Georgia.

In 1997 Congress passed the Balanced Budget Act of 1997.  This Act had significant impact on the home health Medicare benefit for both beneficiaries and providers alike.  It limited home health services covered by Medicare by doing away with venipuncture as a covered service and implemented an interim payment system that limited provider payment per beneficiary.  Ultimately the payment system changed from a cost based system to a prospective pay system which became effective October 1, 2000.  The Federal Medicare Home Health budgeted expenditures declined from over 20 billion in 1997 to 9.7 billion in 2001.  Approximately 1/3 of the nation’s home health agencies went out of business.  To cope with this drastic change in the Medicare program, Three Rivers downsized its operation by reducing visits approximately 40%, employees by approximately 1/3 (mostly through attrition), and did financial belt-tightening in order to maintain costs in line with the new Medicare payment system.  Three Rivers survived the drastic cutback in the Medicare program and continues to be a growing, prosperous company.  Unfortunately Medicare beneficiaries now receive less services than under the old system.

In December 1998, Three Rivers Home Health Services, Inc. became licensed and met all certification standards to provide a full line of home health services to Treutlen County.  The Treutlen county office is located in Soperton and is adequately staffed to meet an increasing patient census.

Three Rivers Home Health Services, Inc. applied for a Private Home Care Provider License on August 15, 2000.  After meeting all regulations, certification requirements, and inspection, its application was approved on October 17, 2000.

On January 5, 2001, William J. Steele retired as an employee of Three Rivers Home Health Services, Inc. and as a member of its Board of Directors.

After working with the Georgia Chamber of Commerce, Georgia State Board of Worker’s Compensation and the Drugs Don’t Work State Director of Georgia, Three Rivers Home Health Services, Inc. was approved as a Certified Drug Free Workplace, as defined by OCGA 34-9-410, on July 1, 2001.

July and August 2002 was a sad time in the history of Three Rivers due to the untimely deaths of Cheryl L. Woodard, R.N. on July 29, 2002 and Leila M. Stuckey, Home Health Aide on August 2, 2002.   These employees working out of the Helena office both died in separate non-work related automobile accidents during the same week.  This was a tragic loss to both families and employees.  The Professional Advisory Board and the Board of Directors passed, published, and recorded a Joint Resolution of Tribute to Ms. Woodard and Ms. Stuckey for their service to the company and others.

Kaye B. Smith and LaMae S. Williams are graduates of the Georgia Baptist Hospital School of Nursing.  October 12, 2002 marked the 100th anniversary of the institution that is now the Georgia Baptist College of Nursing of Mercer University.  In celebration of its centennial the college established a Hall of Honor to recognize outstanding graduates.  In its 100 year history the college has graduated over 6000 registered nurses.  Only twenty of these graduates were chosen as inaugural inductees.  Kaye and LaMae were both inducted into the Hall of Honor for their contributions to the field of nursing through entrepreneurial leadership.  This significant award and recognition personifies the dedicated service that these nurses have rendered through the years in managing and directing the clinical services provided by Three Rivers.  Congratulations!

As a result of this achievement, both Kaye and LaMae received the Vocational Achievement Award offered annually by the Eastman Dodge County Chamber of Commerce.

In 2002 Three Rivers Home Health Services, Inc. applied for and was approved to establish a new home health agency in Health Planning Area 6, and in November 2002 opened an office at 1760 Bass Road, Suite 103 in Macon, Georgia.  On December 13, 2002 Three Rivers Home Health Services met all certification standards and became licensed to provide a full line of home health services to Bibb, Crawford, Hancock, Houston, Jones, Monroe, Peach, Putnam, Twiggs, and Wilkinson counties.

On March 7, 2003 Three Rivers Home Health Services was also granted a Certificate of Need to add Baldwin County to the service area of Health Planning Area 6.

The organizational meeting for the Macon Professional Advisory Board was held March 12, 2003 with Dr. Benjamin Kessler appointed as Medical Director and Mr. Gene Clance elected as Chairman for the Advisory Board.

Due to rapid and substantial growth in patient census in Houston County, a branch office was opened in Warner Robins, Georgia in September 2004.  In February 2005, a second branch office of the Bibb County agency was opened in Milledgeville, Georgia in order to better serve the eastern most counties in our service area.

Throughout calendar year 2004 the agency held numerous events and activities to celebrate and publicize it’s 25th anniversary in the home health business in middle Georgia.

From the establishment of Three Rivers to its present day status, the company has had a monumental impact on health care in the home and on keeping people at home, in familiar surroundings near friends and relatives.  Moreover, the company has made a significant contribution to the economic stability and well being of its service area.  Today, Three Rivers is a Joint Commission accredited,  modern hi-tech health care provider offering a full line of consistently high quality services ranging from skilled nursing care and therapeutic services to home health/ personal support aide services to patients in the service area.  Offices are maintained in Eastman, Abbeville, Cochran, Dublin, Helena, Macon, Milledgeville, Soperton, and Warner Robins.  Home health services are delivered to 2700 patients annually residing in Baldwin, Bibb, Bleckley, Crawford, Dodge, Hancock, Houston, Jones,  Laurens, Monroe, Peach, Pulaski, Putnam, Telfair, Treutlen, Twiggs, Wheeler, Wilcox, and Wilkinson counties.  Total visits of approximately 120,000 are provided annually with a staff of 135 employees.

As of this writing, the corporate Board of Directors is  composed of Kaye B. Smith, R.N., President and Chairperson, LaMae S. Williams, R.N., Vice President, Hal M. Smith, Jr., Secretary-Treasurer, James R. Williams, Jr.,  Evelyn Huntley,  Hal M. Smith, III, and Marla E. Smith.

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Testimonial

  •  Christy is great! She takes a personal interest, as does Beverly. So thankful for their help.Wonderful
  •  The nurses that provided therapy were very dedicated, flexible, and were respectful of my well-being.
  •  They all are nice
  •  Everyone treated me with respect.
  •   I have been pleased with my care I have gotten from this agency.
  •   Yes! All the help I got couldn't have been any better! If needed any more I'll ask for the same ones!
  •   Satisfied - Very good
  •   Care was just great.
  •   Could not have been better. The nurses are very thorough. Could not have received this one-on-one care in hospital or nursing home.
  •   Very happy
  •   Very good nurses
  •   They were all very nice. Jeff, Lisa, Wendy, Kelly, Tabitha. They were wonderful.
  •   The care was very good. Thank you.
  •   Excellent, caring caregivers. I felt I could trust and most importantly - relate to.
  •   Definite reliable
  •   Excellent care
  •   I enjoyed the service that they gave me. Thank God for the ones that came over to help me. I love you all.
  •   This location & staff members are 110% on top of their game. I don't know what I would do without them.
  •   They were friendly and helpful.
  •   Herschel and the RN were very, very good. Jason was outstanding.
  •   Excellent, very good
  •   The ladies who took care of me were kind & caring people.
  •   Super Service
  •   Excellent
  •   I would like to thank all of the caregivers that help me to get back on my feet.
  •   They were very good to me.
  •   They were very nice
  •   Mrs. Jenny was a very nice person & I enjoy her & if I need one again she would be the one I would want.
  •   The entire staff was very kind & courteous and very professional. We really appreciated their work.
  •   That this a good job. If I had to call on them again I would.
  •   Very professional!
  •   I received very good care. I have no complaints.
  •   Employees are very friendly & made me feel very comfortable visiting with them.
  •   I plan to use them for my next knee surgery. They gave wonderful care!
  •   Very friendly yet professional. Looked forward to visits.
  •   Could not ask for or expect any better care than I receive.
  •   Got great care.
  •   Care was very good and satisfactory
  •   I get excellent care & caregivers are so concerned & caring about my health.
  •   The staff I came into contact with were very courteous & caring.
  •   I was really pleased with the service received.
  •   It is an excellent and respectful employees.
  •   They were all very professional and taught me helpful things to help me.
  •   Great!
  •   Everybody did an excellent job. Very pleased with your services.
  •   All was wonderful - no complaints.
  •   Received the best of care. Nurse's were very professional and concerned about me.
  •   My nurse is very sweet/nice person. I like to thank her for all she do.
  •   Skilled nursing care was excellent. Blood test was taken and fluids & magnesium was ordered.
  •   I had excellent care from everyone. Each one was so nice and kind and considerate and thoughtful and did their jobs well.
  •   I am very thankful for Three Rivers Home Health and appreciate them very much.
  •   They are very caring, very great working with their patient.
  •   They did a very good job. I appreciated it very much
  •   Thank you. Very good care.
  •   This is the second time I've used this agency because they are professional, caring, and thorough.
  •   I appreciate your help so much. I couldn't have done without you and the Lord's help
  •   Very professional! Very good care and attentive to my needs & concerns.
  •   They are very good to work with
  •   Excellent
  •   Excellent care! Thank you - Shane, Amanda & Shanika.
  •   Wonderful, professional, timely, caring.
  •   Sara & Jennifer are always kind & courteous. OT - Shanika is loving and communicates very well.
  •   They was very good and kind to me. I love them for coming. They were good to me. Thank all of you.
  •   The staff and the therapist are the best anyone could have.
  •   Have been very pleased with care and information we received. Been blessed to have them.
  •   They really do a great job and they really have helped me alot thanks.
  •   Joel was great.
  •   Received excellent, professional care from the agency.
  •   They were the "Best". I recommend them as #1.
  •   Very nice, friendly and positive attitudes -
  •   Shane was the best PT I've ever had to work with. If I ever find myself in the need of P.T. I'd wand Shane to be my therapist.
  •   I recommend anyone should use Three Rivers Home Health. They were great and I loved them, they were so gentle & sweet & caring.
  •   Excellent PT's!
  •   Crystal (Nurse) was wonderful and the 2 therapists was wonderful - Shawn and Jessica. Please tell them all thank you for me.
  •   I would not want it any other way. Thank you all.
  •   They are very good nurse's to help you with what you need and are very polite.
  •   Shane was exceptional and was Kim the OT.
  •   My family & I are thankful for the staff of Three Rivers that came into our home. Excellent care.


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