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Health care: Smith Clinic will expand to meet needs

By Jason Lesley
Coastal Observer

Smith Medical Clinic is planning a new building on its Baskervill campus and a second office in a community health resource center in Georgetown to improve services to people without health insurance.

“Since Medicaid hasn’t expanded in our state, the number of people needing our services has increased,” said Ann Faul, executive director. “For everyone with insurance, there are more people who have lost theirs.”

Faul said plans are to break ground on a 2,500-square-foot building on land near the former camp swimming pool by early next year. Faul said the clinic has outgrown the former summer dormitory for Camp Baskervill, where the clinic moved after outgrowing a trailer purchased by founder Dr. Cathcart Smith. “We have more providers than we have exam rooms,” Faul said. “A little more space will allow us to increase capacity and will improve services we can offer.”

The office in Georgetown will be located in a former post office building at Highmarket and Wood streets. Tidelands Health, formerly Georgetown Hospital System, plans to complete a $2.5 million renovation next year in order to combine medical care, social services and wellness programs in the Tidelands Community Care Network. In addition to an office for Smith Medical Clinic’s volunteer doctors and nurses, the center will house the hospital’s community health education nurse consultants, its transitional care team and the Neighbor-to-Neighbor medical ride-sharing program. The goal for the 8,850-square-foot center is to become a hub for community resources and services, linking people to affordable primary care and behavioral health services and providing classes that promote a healthy lifestyle and chronic disease management.

“We are very excited about the opportunity because the majority of our patients come from Georgetown and beyond,” Faul said, adding that lack of transportation is the main reason for people canceling appointments at Smith Medical Clinic. “Many rely on friends and family for transportation. Many use the bus to get here, and when it’s raining there are no bus shelters, so that can make it difficult.”

Faul isn’t worried about the Georgetown office reducing the patient load at the clinic on the Baskervill campus. “We’ll see more people because of it,” she said.

Tidelands Health President and CEO Bruce Bailey said the resource center will serve as a model for other communities. “Health care is shifting toward a holistic approach that recognizes health and wellness are intricately linked to quality of life,” he said. “For many in our community, this means access to basic needs such as transportation, good nutrition, education, physical activity and a safe environment. This center will bring together key people working on health access and community health education and serve as a model for other community health programs.”

Linda Bonesteel, director of the Tidelands Community Care Network, said everyone in the building will be devoted to providing guidance and navigation for community members. “Being together not only means better coordination of care and expanded services, particularly for at-risk populations, but most of all, it means the people we serve will have one point of access,” she said. “The convenience of that for our community members cannot be overstated. As we promote health — not just health care — in our community, we are laying the foundation for becoming the healthiest community in South Carolina.”

The renovation will be partially funded through a campaign led by the Tidelands Health Foundation. Jessica Sasser, the foundation’s executive director, said the campaign will coincide with the renovation timetable and include various giving levels, from corporate and major gifts to individual gifts from community members.

To make a donation to the resource center, contact Tidelands Health Foundation at 843-652-8080. For Smith Medical Clinic call 843-237-2672.

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