News 12 at 6 o’clock / Thursday, Jan. 12, 2012
WAGENER, S.C. -- What was once a busy a medical center is now a building full of empty rooms and unused furniture, but not for long.
"I think everyone agreed without hesitation we needed to do something quickly, and we did,” said Wagener Mayor Michael Miller.
Coat after coat of paint, a new medical center is taking shape. Miller says in November he was given only a two-week notice that the clinic would be closing its doors for good.
It was being run by the Barnwell County Hospital, which is now consolidating the Barnwell hospital with one in Bamberg; it’s combining those hospitals into one location in Denmark.
That meant some of the rural clinics like the one in Wagener had to be closed, too.
"There are people that have to drive 30 miles to get a refill on a prescription, and they just can't do that,” the mayor said.
"To a lot of folks, they were doomed, because they didn't have [any] other avenue to seek medical attention,” said Town Councilman George Smith.
That includes people like Richard Sumpter.
"For me, for example, since they closed, I haven't found [any] other place to go since then,” said Sumpter, a resident of the town.
Miller spearheaded a desperate effort to bring a clinic back.
"You have to pursue multiple avenues, and only one may pan out,” he said.
And phone call after phone call, one did pan out. A doctor in Wagener will lease the town-owned building the former clinic was in. Another physician and some other medical professionals will come as well.
"I can’t wait for it to open,” Smith said.
Sumpter is happy with the result.
"I'm real happy with our town council and our mayor. We've got a fine group of people,” he said.
Miller says the clinic will open up Feb. 1. They'll be open Monday through Friday. There's still some renovation work to be done before then, but he says it's actually going to create some local jobs.
Ultimately, Smith said the task seemed impossible, but they got it to work. He says other towns can probably learn from Wagener’s resilience.
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