Clinic Would Serve People Without Medical Insurance in Orangeburg, S.C.

By Gene Zaleski, The Times and Democrat, Orangeburg, S.C.

Jul. 24–A group of doctors is looking to establish a free clinic in Orangeburg County to serve individuals without any insurance.

The clinic, which is being championed by Orangeburg doctor Bert Gue, would provide patients with basic medical care.

“We have a work plan and we have done our homework,” RMC Vice President Brenda Williams told The Regional Medical Center Board of Trustees at its July meeting Tuesday.

The RMC has a committee of community members evaluating the effectiveness of establishing the clinic.

The clinic is intended to be solely owned by members of the community and would not be a direct y-product of the hospital, Williams said.

A location for the clinic, types of services provided and costs associated with its establishment have yet to be determined.

“This is very preliminary,” Williams said, explaining that an in-depth needs assessment study is required. Questions about the handling of any malpractice issues and other legal matters are under investigation.

Site visits at similar clinics in Newberry and Kershaw are planned. A meeting has also been held with Jimmie Walker of the South Carolina Hospital Association. Walker has established similar clinics throughout the state. There are currently 26 in South Carolina.

Expectations are the Orangeburg clinic could come online sometime in 2009.

Chairman James Amaker encouraged Williams to receive documentation from all parties involved to ensure all are on the same page.

After some concern was raised by trustees about the conflict of services with Family Health Centers Inc., Williams said FHC Chief Executive Officer Donnie Hilliard has expressed his support for the clinic as long as it is designed for patients without any insurance.

The committee consists of Dr. Gue, Sandy Chaplain R.N, instructor at Orangeburg-Calhoun Technical College; Lisa Tourville, RN; Rebecca Battle-Bryant, OCtech; Dr. Frank Coulter, RMC medical staff; Dr. Lamar Dawkins Jr., RMC medical staff, and Paul Sheler, Family Health Center board member.

CT scanners David Cope, RMC vice president of strategic planning, said the hospital staff has found a more cost-effective way to purchase its desired 64-slice computed tomography scanner.

Trustees Tuesday voted in favor of a purchase package that would include a 64-slice scanner ($706,912) and a new 16-slice CT scanner ($449,829).

Late last year, trustees approved the purchase of a new 64-slice scanner for about $2.3 million, of which $1.265 million was for the scanner and $1.035 million was for construction needed to house the equipment. The project received approval from the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental.

However, negotiations by hospital staff brought the price down on the 64-slice about $108,259, if included with the purchase of the 16-slice.

Hospital officials say the 64-slice scanner will provide patients with a quicker, more efficient, non-invasive procedure, while the technology provides doctors with higher-resolution images.

The hospital would expect to receive the 16-slice scanner by year’s end and the 64-slice by the third quarter of 2009.

The logistics on placement of the 64-slice, which requires a larger footprint and construction of new space, has yet to be determined.

Placement in the hospital’s annex building has been discussed as a way to expedite the scanner coming on-line while a permanent place is constructed.

MONEY MATTERS: Kenneth Rickenbaker, chair of the hospital’s finance committee, informed trustees the remaining $458,678 originally placed in the hospital’s Edisto Health Foundation was reinvested into certificates of deposit at the end of June.

Orangeburg County Council late in 2006 requested the hospital take the $25,458,678 out of its then newly formed EHF and put the money back into the hospital.

The EHF was created in January 2006 to allow the hospital to make investments that it can’t make on its own.

Orangeburg County officials questioned the hospital’s investment strategy in the foundation, saying it was outside the legal requirements of the state of South Carolina for government investments.

The $25.4 million was withdrawn in staggered terms roughly once a month from April 30, 2007, through Aug. 31, 2007, but the $458,678 was not pulled down until June 27 of this year.

Trustee Danny Covington had cited the failure to bring down the monies among 12 of the listed allegations of procedural misconduct and incompetency brought before the board earlier in the week related to Amaker.

But Rickenbaker says the blame for not bringing down the monies sooner falls on the entire board.

Covington questioned this assessment, noting that Orangeburg County Council took issue with the monies being appropriately drawn down when in January it issued its terms and conditions for the hospital to borrow $22 million.

One condition was that the $25 million transferred to Edisto Health Foundation come back to the hospital and that the “funds are invested according to the law of public funding.”

Covington said even when the issue was raised directly, the monies still were not drawn down.

“I got criticized for not saying anything about it, but it has been on the report every month,” Covington said. “I said I want to see how long we will play with it.”

“This is not an issue that has not been discussed,” he said. “This is something that everybody knows about. I can’t figure out in my mind why anybody on this staff would not have got that in day one because we voted to bring it down in six moves.”

Rickenbaker said a report on exactly how the resolution was written will be brought back to the board at the next meeting.

In other business:

–Trustees were updated on the hospital’s engagment with the Dubai-based Jafza International project and its potential impact on the health care industry both in Orangeburg County and the hospital in Bamberg County.

Jafza has conducted the needed interviews, has gathered data and demographic information and is in the process of creating an evaluation of various scenarios that could impact the hospital.

The result of the study and evaluation is expected by the end of August.

–Trustees nominated Dr. Carl Carpenter as RMC Trustee of the Year.

Carpenter will be in line to possibly receive the state honor at the South Carolina Hospital Association’s Trustees, Administrators, and Physicians (TAP) conference in September on Hilton Head Island.

Due to a tie as a result of a late ballot, Trustee Millie Brunson was also given the local honor of being Trustee of the Year. Her name will not be presented for the statewide award.


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Copyright (c) 2008, The Times and Democrat, Orangeburg, S.C.

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