News 12 at 11 o'clock / Thursday, April 12, 2012
WAGENER, S.C. -- Jennings B. Legrand of Wagener can easily drive to the town's new medical center for a check-up.
"It means a great deal to the citizenry here and especially the senior citizens," the 92-year-old said.
Without this hospital, he'd have to drive to Aiken, Lexington or even Columbia.
"You can imagine, it would be a hard, hard job for him if I say, 'Come and see me in Lexington.' I would spend a longer time explaining to him how to get there, and he still may not make it," said Dr. Vasant Garde.
That's why Dr. Garde gladly runs the hospital which stays busy now, but it wasn't always that way. In early January it was rundown and emptied out. The Barnwell County Hospital shut it down in November, but then Mayor Mike Miller and Dr. Garde got together. In weeks, the hospital was reborn, and now, it's growing.
"We need to expand, and we want to do that and that would be getting a mid-level nurse practitioner or a physician's assistant. We are allying with Rural Health, and that's pretty much a done deal," Miller said.
Miller said he hopes other rural towns struggling to hold on to their hospitals can learn something from Wagener.
"I hope they do. In everything we do, I want it to be an example of what could be and what can be and, hopefully, what is," he said.
But doing that means doing some things a little smarter. They bought equipment from the federal surplus, hired locals and put patients like Jennings first.
"We have fun together, too -- Dr. Garde and I," Jennings said.
Along with the medical center, Wagener also has its sights set on a new joint emergency center. The mayor has picked out a plot of land that he wants to lease to the county. He says Aiken County will likely build a facility there to house a sheriff's substation and an EMS station.
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