Early County News

Ending the year with gratitude

The Way I See It



As 2023 comes to a close, our local hospital finds itself in a much better position than in previous years. There is no question we have faced challenges of late.

You will remember that we had a tenant (Pioneer) managing the facility that filed bankruptcy. When they did, our hospital was viewed as an asset by the courts. This meant a new lease with LifeBrite was forced on us without any input from the Early County Hospital Authority. We simply had to take what the judge gave us.

Soon after their arrival, the LifeBrite CEO faced federal fraud charges (for which he was acquitted) and this led to years of court battles.

To be clear, this did not result in substandard healthcare. On the contrary, the needs of the patients were well met by the local doctors, nurses and employees. Care was unaffected, but financial challenges, Hurricane Michael and the agony of COVID took a toll on employee morale.

During that time, no one was more faithful to hold things together than Ginger Cushing. Before becoming CEO eight years ago, she served as an ER nurse, nurse manager and director of nursing. Even as head of the hospital, she spent many sleepless nights filling shifts during times of staff shortages.

Critical access hospitals are struggling and many things contribute to their success or failure. As you have seen in press reports, rural hospitals have closed in record numbers. At times, leaders in Blakely and Early County have had concerns about the future of ours. How then, you may ask, did your hometown medical facility weather the storms? There is a simple answer.

A lifelong resident of Early County, Ginger Maddox was born into one of our most prominent families. She graduated from Early County High, went to Georgia Southern, then married her high school sweetheart, Joey Cushing.

Few members of the Hilton/ Maddox family remain in the area. Ginger has the same resources, opportunities, talents and abilities as the rest, but she made the choice to stay right here at home to reinvest in the place that gave her so much.

Through every trial, Ginger held the hospital and nursing home together, especially during our most difficult of days. Without question, doctors, nurses, and other support personnel deserve credit for their hard work and perseverance. But the fact is many of them would have been long gone if not for their loyalty to their leader and their confidence that she was fighting for them.

Although she has recently left her post as CEO, I want the public record of Early County to reflect our thanks to Ginger Cushing for the wonderful gift she has given us. We hope she enjoys well deserved rest and more time to fulfill her greatest purpose at this stage of her life, being a grandmother.

With that said, I also hope we will one day hear a knock on the doors of our hospital rooms and see Ginger walking back in again.

Proverbs 17:22 says, “A joyful heart is good medicine.” That kind “Jackie Maddox smile” she inherited from her mother is very often just what the doctor ordered. After all these years, we don’t want to be without it!

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