Leaders break ground on Aiken health center for everyone

News 12 at 6 o'clock / Friday, June 21, 2013

AIKEN, S.C. (WRDW) -- On a cool Friday morning, politicians, doctors and community leaders gathered at a wooded spot along Columbia Avenue, just past UPS. With shovels forked in the ground waiting to upturn dirt, the participants geared up for a special ceremony to mark the birth of a big project.

"As we all know, there's so many citizens who cannot afford, for whatever reasons, the health care they need," said Aiken Mayor Fred Cavanaugh.

After speeches from elected officials and community leaders, they broke ground and revealed the grand design. Construction will soon begin on a hospital right at the site.

Carolyn Emanuel-McClain, CEO of Rural Health Services, Inc., calls it a hospital for everyone.

"Medicaid, Medicare, private insurance, with money or without money, we do not let their financial status determine whether they get care or the quality of care they get," she said.

Right now, Emanuel-McClain oversees another facility, Margaret J. Weston Community Health Center in Clearwater. But now, this expansion is on the horizon.

"The majority of the need is right here in this census track where we're standing. There are more than 14,000 people that could benefit from the health services of a community health center," she said.

"Well, it will allow us to offer more services to the community in a different location," said Dr. Frederic Woriax of the Margaret J. Weston.

He says the new facility in Aiken gives his nonprofit the ability to reach thousands more in need and the chance to lift up a poorer area of Aiken.

"This is a pocket of poverty. This health center will be located here. It will stimulate economic growth," Emanuel-McClain said.

Emmanuel-McClain is excited and says about 50 jobs will be planted there, too. She expects the construction to be complete in about a year.

"We think that everyone has a right to first-class health care in a first-class facility," she said.

The facility also might include parks and walking trails. McClain says it's a way to encourage the people in that part of Aiken to be more active.

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