UPDATE| Barnwell County getting new health care facility

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Tuesday, March 8, 2016

BARNWELL COUNTY, S.C. (WRDW) -- A new health care company is moving into Barnwell County to fill the void left after a hospital closed.

According to County Councilman Freddie Houston Sr, Low Country Health Care is looking for a building to set up shop in.

Low County will offer extended hours from 8 a.m until 10 p.m.

Houston said he expects the medical facility to be open within the next 30 days. He said they still need to get an x-ray machine before they start treating patients.

Low County has reached out to workers laid off after Southern Palmetto Hospital closed.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

BARNWELL, S.C. (WRDW) -- The Barnwell County Council is meeting on Tuesday to discuss a short term solution to provide medical care after the Southern Palmetto Hospital closure.

The hospital closed in January after they say they lost 2.5 million dollars in uncompensated care.

County Councilman Freddie Houston Sr. says finding a temporary solution is a priority as people living in Barnwell now have to travel elsewhere to get medical treatment.

After the hospital closed, Houston says the council formed a Medical Care Advisory Team. That team is made up of citizens, some with a medical background, others without one.

The team has had many meetings to try and find a temporary solution. One possibility is working with Low Country Health Care which already has facilities in Barnwell.

According to their website, Low Country Health Care was established in 1977, "in response to a significant community need for quality and cost effective primary care services for the area’s population."

Houston tells News 12 the facility would likely have to expand service and extend hours. The extent of that is not known at this time.

The Medical Care Advisory Team will present their ideas to the county council on Tuesday. From there a decision will be made on how to provide health care in Barnwell.

News 12 First at Five / Thursday, Jan. 21, 2016

BARNWELL, S.C. (WRDW) -- As doctors, nurses and other employees left Southern Palmetto Hospital for the final time, they walked into a prayer gathering.

Many people in Barnwell say the hospital was one of the few things holding the small, economically challenged community together. Retired Barnwell pastor David Turner says, "There's just something precious about a community Hospital in the community that shares it."

As the community loses its hospital, and more than 100 people lose their jobs, other health providers face an uncertain future. Daniels' Pharmacy across the street relies on the hospital. Tim Gable, a pharmacist at Daniels' Pharmacy, says, "Well, it's going to hurt. Number one, I won't generate the prescriptions coming from the emergency room."

Gable says the pharmacy has been here for decades. He thinks it can survive, but it will be harder, "If they have to drive to Aiken or Augusta to see the doctors, they tend to get their prescriptions filled there." It's not only the pharmacy, Gable says it's easier to see a specialist near your hospital.

The quality of medical care is expected to take a hit, but the dollars and cents wont be far behind. Turner says, "When you lose 100 jobs in a small town that's already economically depressed, that's going to be tough."

“In association with one of our stories last week about the closing of the Southern Palmetto Hospital in Barnwell, WRDW commented about the ripple effect that that closing might have on neighboring medical businesses. WRDW would like to clarify that the owner of at least one of those businesses, Daniels’ Pharmacy, says his pharmacy will remain open and is not likely to feel much adverse effect from the hospital closure.”

News 12 @ 11 o'clock / Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2016

BARNWELL COUNTY, S.C. (WRDW) -- Thursday will be the last day Barnwell County will have a hospital. Southern Palmetto Hospital announced they are closing their doors because of finance troubles.

Two point five million dollars, that's how much money Southern Palmetto Hospital says went down the drain last year. They say people haven't been paying their medical bills, and they're seeing less patients. That's part of the reason the only hospital in Barnwell County decided to close their doors. "This is a community. And we've been built up over the years and we're very much a rural community. But now it's like a bad deal," Barnwell resident Porter Claytor said.

Some lawmakers are saying that the lack of payment is not being caused by the decision not to expand Medicaid coverage. Georgia and South Carolina are both states that have not expanded Medicaid funding.

South Carolina representative Bill Taylor says the current Medicaid funding already takes up most of the state's budget, more than roads, education, and every employee's salary He says expanding it would break the bank.

Shane Massey is another South Carolina law maker, he does not believe expanding coverage would have saved the hospital. He does think it could be a good idea to give hospitals more money for people that aren't paying the bills. "We have had a problem with the county hospital because it costs too much," another Barnwell resident Louis Claytor said.

In Georgia, Governor Nathan Deal just announced in his State of the State that without the expansion, Medicaid is costing Georgia 340 million dollars.

Although Augusta Representative Earnest Smith believes expansion would benefit everyone, including the state as a whole.

Representative Smith believes there could be some kind of middle ground reached. But the majority of lawmakers in both states do not support expanding medicaid.

Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2016

BARNWELL COUNTY, S.C. (WRDW) -- The Southern Palmetto Hospital says it has to close its doors after low patient counts and uncompensated care cost the facility $2.5 million in 2015.

A release from the hospital says the facility is closing while owners consider alternatives for the continuation of healthcare in the community. However, no plans have been approved at this time.

Hospital officials say the decline in patients over the past years has made it impossible to sustain a full service hospital. The hospital has been operating on losses despite making efforts to improve efficiency, collections, and the facility.

The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control's role in the closure is to ensure the administrators of the hospital have a plan in place for the maintenance and storage of records, and the safe relocation of patients. DHEC will also work with the hospital on a plan for the termination of Medicare and Medicaid, the maintenance of x-ray equipment, and the proper handling and disposal of controlled substances.

News 12 at 11 o' clock/ Jan. 19, 2016

BARNWELL COUNTY, S.C. (WRDW) -- Multiple employees at the Southern Palmetto Hospital, formerly the Barnwell County Hospital, confirm the hospital plans to close the doors at noon Thursday, January 21.

Employees say they were informed Tuesday at a 4:00PM emergency meeting just two days before the planned shut down. An employee tells News 12 the CEO was not even present at the meeting, saying the Director of Nursing broke the news.

Sources tell us the hospital employees 140 people. Employees say they were told they would each receive two weeks severance pay. They will have to transfer all of the patients to other hospitals and can not admit any new patients. They will still see patients in the emergency room through Thursday at noon.

According to the Southern Palmetto Hospital's website, "The facility was opened on its present site in June 1955 with 45 beds and was named Barnwell County Hospital. In June 2013 Barnwell County Hospital was purchased by SC Healthcare Investment, LLC. Our new name is Southern Palmetto Hospital, a 53 bed acute care facility."

Southern Palmetto Hospital is the only hospital in Barnwell County. Many residents in the county are expressing concern about the 30-45 minute drive to the next hospital in Allendale or Aiken.

Barnwell County Council Chairman David Kenner says he is trying to get to the bottom of thee rumors. He says he has not heard anything official, and says the council was not notified about the hospital closing.

News 12 tried to reach out to the hospital after hours, but we were told
the Hospital Administrator is the only one who could make an official comment, and he would not be in until Wednesday morning.