This week marks the one year anniversary for the Bamberg-Barnwell Emergency Medical Center. The Denmark facility was opened April 8th, 2019, by Regional Medical Center, an Orangeburg-based hospital.
“It’s not just a healthcare opportunity, it’s also been a little bit of an economic engine because some of the employees in that facility live in the counties,” says Regional Medical Center CEO Charles Williams.
One year after the BBEMC opened, the rural facility is dealing with its own set of COVID-19 challenges. NewsChannel 6’s Ashley Osborne talked to Williams about how they are handling the crisis.
Watch the full interview with Regional Medical Center CEO Charles Williams below
Williams says they started planning for COVID-19 back in February.
“We started looking at where are we on PPE? Where are we on surge? Negative pressure rooms? Ensuring that we could do all we needed to do proactively for our people,” Williams says.
That mission includes looking out for their hospital staff who have childcare needs since school is out, and they are still going to work.
“Our number in this small hospital here was 92 children that we needed to find daycare for. That’s a lot of kids!” Williams says.
They reached out to the Governor’s office and got permission to use the Barnwell YMCA as a daycare for hospital employees. The YMCA is now providing daily daycare for the children of essential hospital employees from birth to age 14.
Williams says rural hospitals have unique challenges that are especially difficult right now.
“Many of your rural parts don’t have broadband,” Williams points out. “If you don’t have broadband and internet service, you can’t get online.”
Another struggle is transportation and even if people do have the ability to get around, there are fewer doctors to visit.
“[South Carolina has] between 10 and 11.5 primary care physicians for every 10,000 residents; however, that’s not equal across the state. Pick for example, Charleston. There maybe about 22.2 and some change for every 10,000 residents. Bamberg is around 2.5 to 2.7,” Williams explains.
The current financial imbalance amid COVID-19 is a challenge that all hospitals share, and Williams says it is hitting rural hospitals the hardest. Revenue is down due to the lack of non-emergency procedures, while costs continue to go up.
“We don’t have the reserves of a large hospital chain,” Williams says. “I really believe what our government should do is say there is the stimulus cash for hospitals, but [that] we need a separate bucket for those rural hospitals. … We have to find a way to ensure that no matter whereever your residence may be, you have access to health.”
Williams says Bamberg-Barnwell Emergency Medical Center is in need of supplies. You can donate to the hospital to help them protect employees and patients during this difficult time.
CLICK HERE to give.