Mary Valliant, who will serve as chief executive officer of the new regional hospital to be built near Denmark, says work is under way to prevent an interruption in health care services with the pending closure of the Bamberg hospital.

The Bamberg County Hospital Board voted to close the hospital effective April 30 in a special called meeting last week.

Barnwell and Bamberg counties have entered into an arrangement with an affiliate of Memphis, Tenn.-based Dobbs Equity Partners LLC to develop a regional health care system. The system will consist of multi-specialty physician centers in each county and construction of a regional hospital.

Both hospitals filed for bankruptcy under Chapter 9 of the U.S. Code of laws while they work to restructure their debt.

Valliant said her first priority is to ensure Bamberg County citizens will be provided health care once the current hospital is closed.

“I’m not involved until the sale (of the hospital) goes through to Dobbs Equity Partners, but I can tell you that we’re working right now on an urgent care center that will have radiology, mammograms, ultrasound and a blood drawing station. They will have nurse practitioners and a medical director,” she said.

“All those things are in the works right now, and we’re moving as fast as we can. We really don’t want to have a gap in service, so I’m really trying to see what I can do to get it up and functioning.”

Dr. Danette McAlhaney, chairperson of the Bamberg County Hospital Board, said the decision to close the hospital was hard but unavoidable.

“We’re currently not able to generate enough income on a monthly basis from our daily care to pay overhead and to pay down even some of the post-bankruptcy debt,” McAlhaney said. “That board would have loved to have been able to guarantee no gap in service, but it came to a point where we were going to be out of money.”

A February financial report the board received March 28 revealed emergency room visits were down 8.8 percent and “all areas” of the hospital continued to be affected by the departure of the county’s lone general surgeon, Dr. John R. Ross, a year ago.

The hospital’s monthly net revenue for February came in at $730,000 — $283,000 higher than January. The increase was attributed to $458,000 the hospital received in debt set-off program payments. However, McAlhaney said the debt set-off payment was not enough to keep the hospital open.

“That went to cover expenses. It made it look good for a month, but obviously those funds go away shortly. It became obvious to us that we needed to close so that we wouldn’t incur more debt for the hospital,” she said. “It’s our obligation to be financially responsible to the creditors and to the employees.”

McAlhaney said she will not close her private practice in Bamberg.

Bamberg County Councilman Clair Guess noted that health care reimbursement “has changed so much over the past few years that hospitals are simply not viable unless they are large enough to host several specialties. That is the reason our hospital is out of money and the reason why consolidation of efforts between counties is so important.”

While Guess said there is still a strong market for new and existing health care centers, he was still “very upset with the possible end of services at the Bamberg Memorial Hospital.”

County Councilman Clint Carter said the hospital’s closure was somewhat inevitable given its low patient volume. “I’m sorry to see it close, but I knew it was coming,” he said.

County Councilwoman Alzena Robinson said, “I still support not closing the ER at Bamberg. I hope we can close the deal with Dobbs soon.”

Rick Greene of Dobbs Equity said South Carolina Regional Health System, a Dobbs affiliate, will take over ownership of the Bamberg and Barnwell hospitals once bankruptcy proceedings are completed. He said an urgent care center will hopefully be open by the time the hospital closes its doors on April 30.

“This is subject to obtaining state regulatory approval for which we have previously applied,” Greene said.

“The Bamberg hospital is still in bankruptcy. Subject to court approval, we hope to complete the entire transaction by early May. Our company is rapidly initiating plans to open an extended-hours, urgent care facility” which is expected to meet 90 percent of the community’s emergency medical needs, he said.

Greene has said he is aware of the community’s high indigent care population and is concerned about continued revenue loss.

“Clearly, this is a difficult issue and, I suppose, a contributing factor to the Bamberg hospital’s financial difficulties. Our plan is to offer affordable, top quality health care at a fair price. Our experience is to work with individuals to set up reasonable payment plans where possible,” he said.

County Councilman Evert Comer Jr. said while he would have liked the hospital’s closing to have taken place with the opening of a new regional hospital, providing high quality health care for citizens remains the county’s main objective.

“We have to take what we have for now, make the best of it and move on doing what we can in the interim,” he said.

Greene has said regional health care will be run by Barnwell County Hospital until the new hospital is completed and opened. Dobbs officials anticipate the Barnwell County Hospital will remain open for three years after the sale of the current hospitals are completed in order to provide time for the regional hospital’s construction.

“We know a large segment of the population is seeking health care outside of the counties. We have worked for more than a year to develop a plan to offer a health care system that will be unmatched in quality, timeliness and affordability,” Greene said.

“We hope everyone gives us the opportunity to prove that.”

Contact the writer: dgleaton@timesanddemocrat.com or 803-533-5534.

(22) comments

TwoCents
TwoCents

The time to move on and leave this hospital issue behind hasand come. To the hundreds of people who used to be employed at the hospital I hope that all have or will obtain jobs elsewhere. There are a lot of lessons to be learned and conclusions to be drawn by those on both sides of the issue but I doubt a consensus will be reached on any of them. The future of health care in Bamberg county is uncertain and I hope that all citizens find a facility that serves their needs while we wait.

dirtpoor
dirtpoor

And, they can thank Claire Guess and the Denmark lawyer for this!

OburgIT
OburgIT

This closure was unavoidable because of gross neglegence on the CC and Board's part over the last four years.In particular the first two of that last four.Trust me when I tell you Mary Valliant does NOT have the interest of anybody but Mary Valliant in mind.Bamberg hospital chose to not participate in the 1st year of EHR and lost 1.4mill in government funding that they could have received for a total of three year missing out on almost 3.5mill total.

OburgIT
OburgIT

In addition they could have considered and put up for vote a local option sales tax for the hospital for the next 5 years that could have been for the hospital to obtain capital improvements and for physician recruitment, and not been totally paid for by the citizens.This was simply gross negelegence on CC and the ones that have chosen not to run in both counties should be ashamed.You should run and let the people do what they should and put you out of office, how cowardess to not even run!!

TRMCRNCEN
TRMCRNCEN

There are several disturbing facts surrounding the closure of Bamberg County Hospitals Emergency Department as of April 30, 2012 that I believe should be seriously investigated. During the 5 plus years that the search for a viable solution to the difficulties that the facility had been experiencing numerous local healthcare organizations offered to buy the facility one of which being The Regional Medical Center of Orangeburg. Continued....

TRMCRNCEN
TRMCRNCEN

The citizens of Bamberg were left instead with a decision by the inept chairwoman of the hospitals board, the greedy lawyers for the facility and the uneducated Bamberg County Council was made to sell the extremely profitable nursing center that was the cash cow for the county and the backbone of the facilities financial upkeep.

TRMCRNCEN
TRMCRNCEN

The decision to sell the nursing center was not made because it was losing money, but for the quick 3.5 million in cash that the hospital could use to upgrade in order to pass DHEC requirements. What did this do? Well it is now quite evident. The hospital is closing simply due to the mismanagement and the inadequacy of the local physician who thought "she" knew how to handle the situation. WRONG!!!

TRMCRNCEN
TRMCRNCEN

There are several statements that have been made over the past several years that I should be noted. the first by attorney Chris Wilson who stated in relation to the hospital, " I have faith that their council members, hospital board members and others are going to do what's in the best interest and not be overrun by misinformation." He further was quoted as stating, "No decisions have been made in secret". AMAZING !!! That is exactly what has been done from the beginning.

TRMCRNCEN
TRMCRNCEN

Second, as stated in the T & D, "The closure of Bamberg County Hospital is proposed "within 90-180 days of closing of the proposed transaction" in the letter of intent. The proposal calls for Bamberg Hospital's operations to be consolidated with Barnwell County Hospital, which would operate until the replacement hospital is completed".

TRMCRNCEN
TRMCRNCEN

The proposal calls for Bamberg Hospital's operations to be consolidated with Barnwell County Hospital, which would operate until the replacement hospital is completed". The decision to close should come as no shock to anyone other than why did the Bamberg County "decision makers" allow Barnwell County to sneak in and steal the show, and force Bamberg residents to drive to their county to their facility and be admitted as their patients.

TRMCRNCEN
TRMCRNCEN

Third, McAlhaney states that the emergency room visits for March were down 8.8 percent. Can she provide the same data for her practice as well. Anyone with a brain and knowledge of healthcare knows that come Spring emergency room visits drop due to the end of the cold and flu season, which is why most facilities have staff voluntary work reduction in place. Fourth, McAlhaney stated, “It’s our obligation to be financially responsible to the creditors and to the employees.”

TRMCRNCEN
TRMCRNCEN

Then DO NOT open an urgent care in a facility that could not manage to stay in operation due to the "indigent" in the area. Information has already been made available that the urgent care will turn away those that are not able to pay their co-pay and those with no insurance will be expected to pay up front for services.

TRMCRNCEN
TRMCRNCEN

Fifth, as stated by Rick Greene of Dobbs Equity, " South Carolina Regional Health System, a Dobbs affiliate, will take over ownership of the Bamberg and Barnwell hospitals once bankruptcy proceedings are completed. He said an urgent care center will hopefully be open by the time the hospital closes its doors on April 30. Bankruptcy proceedings take several months to years to be completed. It is not a quickie divorce that can be done in the back ally of Mexico.

TRMCRNCEN
TRMCRNCEN

Before Greene even shuvles dirt in the "ditch" half-way between both counties it is project that it will be 5-10 years before the facility is even able to begin construction. Sixth, Greene stated he is aware of the community’s high indigent care population and is concerned about continued revenue loss then WHY would you even consider opening an urgent care where the only treatment that can be provided is an aspirin or transport to Barnwell.

TRMCRNCEN
TRMCRNCEN

The hours of operation are set to be from 2pm to 8pm. WHY? The physicians directly across the street do not even close their doors for the day until 5pm or 6pm. Do you seriously think that McAlhaney is going to send one of her patients across the street during her hours of operation and lose the funds she would receive from that visit. ABOSOLUTELY NOT!!!

TRMCRNCEN
TRMCRNCEN

End the madness the lies and the endless rhetoric. Call it a day let those that want to go to Barnwell drive the 20 plus miles and if it seems feasible at that point that the citizens of Bamberg can support a healthcare system of both counties then proceed. Otherwise forget about the endless trips and paid lunches that all involved will receive discussing how they can build a state of the art facility in the middle of nowhere.

TRMCRNCEN
TRMCRNCEN

If an urgent care is what the county of Bamberg needs then seek out an independent organization that specializes in urgent care facilities and management and have them come in and build their own office independent of Bamberg and Barnwell hospital. The best option would be to travel the same distance to Orangeburg where a fully staffed emergency department is open 24 hours a day seven days a week.

TRMCRNCEN
TRMCRNCEN

This entire urgent care deal is a pipe dream, will not turn a profit and no self respecting nurse practitioner is going to consider accepting a "position" to work in a facility that just technically shut is doors and let all of the employees go as well. Just to see if the urgent care can turn a profit.

TRMCRNCEN
TRMCRNCEN

Get real, get a life, and hopefully some of these decision makers will leave Bamberg County and its citizens who deserve better from those they put into office and have relied on for the past 5 years for adequate information.

TRMCRNCEN
TRMCRNCEN

Lastly, the governor, who was born in Bamberg County and who proudly calls it her home, should insist that an investigation be held and a forensic audit of the county council, the hospital board, and both Barnwell and Bamberg Counties hospitals be completed. Then those responsible, who many in the area believe have profited in some way from this entire mess, can be prosecuted to the fullest extent that the law allows. That includes physicians!

TRMCRNCEN
TRMCRNCEN

Lastly, the governor, who was born in Bamberg County and who proudly calls it her home, should insist that an investigation be held and a forensic audit of the county council, the hospital board, and both Barnwell and Bamberg Counties hospitals be completed and those responsible for this mess should be held accountable and prosecuted to the fullest extent that the law allows. Physician included!

TRMCRNCEN
TRMCRNCEN

Comments are best read from the first made on April 29, 2012, 4:22 am since the posts are in order based on the time posted.

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