Barnwell County residents spoke up at the County Council meeting Tuesday night about a decision that would move their local hospital to Denmark. (WRDW-TV / Sept. 13, 2011)
News 12 at 11 o'clock / Thursday, Nov. 17, 2011
WAGENER, S.C. -- Money troubles at a couple of local hospitals are leading to a merger.
Dobbs Equity group is buying both Bamberg and Barnwell county hospitals. They will close and a open new updated facility in Denmark.
Barnwell County Hospital runs three rural medical clinics, and now the Wagener clinic is closing at the end of the month. This move is leaving many people there without a doctor close by.
Residents in Wagener are signing a petition to keep their medical facility open. They say without it, there would only be one part-time doctor in town.
"Would you please sign our petition to keep this open?" asked Jeanne Price to neighbors.
Signatures are filling up pages to keep a medical center in Wagener open.
"Everyone is very comfortable with the staff there and I myself go there," Wagener Mayor Michael Miller told News 12.
Retired teacher Richard Sumpter doesn't know where he will go to see the doctor if it closes at the end of the month.
"We have a lot of senior citizens that don't have transportation," Sumpter said.
Wagener has a lot of retirees, and there are only two part-time doctors.
"Between the two, they cover the town well, the loss of one would certainly complicate things," explained Miller.
The Barnwell County Hospital runs the center.
"We have three rural health clinics and what we decided was to consolidate," said Mary Valliant, the Barnwell County Hospital CEO.
She says it's an effort to save money.
"We have lost about $900,000 last year, it was very important to see what we can do to lower our expenses," Valliant said.
The hospital is in bankruptcy, and Valliant says shutting down the Wagener center is the best business decision.
"It is out of this county, it is the farthest for deliveries supplies and the cost of gasoline," Valliant said.
The hospital sent patients a letter hoping to get them to switch to their Williston or Blackville locations. Those are about 30 minutes away.
But petitions with more than 300 signatures want to change the hospital's minds.
"You don't feel as comfortable when you have to go out of town, or you have to wait a couple hours for someone to take you," Sumpter said.
Mayor Miller says he is looking into options the town might have for keeping the clinic open in some way.
The Barnwell Hospital also says they are planning on talking with the mayor about helping with transportation.