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Health: Community care center expands reach of Smith Clinic

By Jason Lesley
Coastal Observer

Georgetown County: the healthiest community in South Carolina?

What began as a vision five years ago by a group of health professionals turned to reality this week with the opening of the Tidelands Health Community Resource Center at Highmarket and Wood streets in Georgetown.

Tidelands Health President and CEO Bruce Bailey told a group of about 100 people Monday at a dedication service for the $2.5 million center that it will be a model for other community health programs. “As we promote health — not just health care — in our community, we are laying the foundation for becoming the healthiest community in South Carolina,” he said.

The building will be headquarters for the Tidelands Community Care Network, a public-private partnership of agencies and organizations providing essential medical and behavioral health services to people in need. Smith Medical Clinic will have a satellite clinic in the remodeled post office and child care center. Anne Faul, executive director, said having a facility in Georgetown would solve one of her clinic’s biggest needs: transportation to a doctor. There are four exam rooms, a doctor’s office, intake desks, a small lab and a prescription drug storage closet in the Smith satellite clinic.

Faul explained how the new location would benefit clients through a story about George, a diabetic and a patient at Smith Medical Clinic. “George was going to the emergency room about 30 times a year and also coming to Smith Clinic,” she said. “His diabetes was out of control, and he was getting care in both places.” With the help of Tidelands Community Care Network, Faul found that George’s biggest problem was a lack of transportation. “When George couldn’t get to the Smith Clinic, he’d go to the emergency room,” she said. “He was in very great danger of losing a foot.”

Workers helped George manage the bus schedule, and his emergency room visits dropped from 30 to just eight the next year. “Mr. George is still our patient,” Faul said, “and still misses appointments at Smith Clinic occasionally. The reason continues to be transportation. He lives in Georgetown, and we are in Pawleys Island. He has a foot condition and wears a huge boot. When I told him we were going to be in Georgetown, he said, ‘Oh, Miss Anne. Another prayer answered.’”

Sherby McGrath, chairwoman of the Tidelands Health Foundation Board, said there is no such thing as a simple problem for people who are uninsured or under-insured. “We all benefit from a healthier community whose members can better learn, work and lead fulfilling and productive lives,” she said. The foundation has raised $185,000 for the center. The community room has a plaque indicating it was financed in honor of Nancy S. Altman of Pawleys Island, a long-time hospital trustee, and in memory of her son Alan S. Altman.

Bailey said there is a clear link between wellness and quality of life. “For many in our community,” he said, “this means access to basic services and needs, such as transportation, medical care, good nutrition, education and a safe environment. Health is not just getting to a doctor. Do you have food, running water? Can you get transportation to a doctor? How’s your mental health? Can you afford a $4 prescription? Can you read the bottle?”

Bailey said illness or injury makes the lives of the poor so much harder. “This group helps lift them out of the hole,” he said. “This building will help, but it’s more about the talents and resources coming together.”

County backs hospital plan for state bonds

Members of Georgetown County Council approved a resolution this week in support of a bond issue for Tidelands Health, formerly Georgetown Memorial Hospital, for up to $135 million.

The money will come from the Jobs-Economic Development Authority, which issues bonds on behalf of 501(c)3 entities. Spokeswoman Margaret Lamb said Tidelands Health is working with the authority on $122 million in bonds to be issued later this year. This bond issue is anticipated to include approximately $62 million in new debt and $60 million in refinanced debt.

The $62 million in new debt will include $42 million to fund the construction of a previously announced surgery pavilion at Tidelands Georgetown Memorial Hospital and an additional $20 million to purchase operating equipment for Tidelands Health locations. The remaining $60 million of the bond issue will allow Tidelands Health to refinance existing debt at a lower interest rate.

Tidelands has an A3 credit rating with Moody’s Investors Service. The higher an organization’s credit rating, the more stable it is considered to be.

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