***UPDATED ON WEDNESDAY JANUARY 20 AT 5:36 PM***
Barnwell, SC – The only hospital in Barnwell County is closing. When the clock strikes noon Thursday, people in Barnwell will have a longer drive for emergency health care. A low number of patients and uncompensated care are the two main reasons given by the CEO of the hospital for why doors will close.
“We were just told that as of 12 o’clock on Thursday the hospital would be closing,” said the hospital’s Marketing Director Tavy Perry.
That’s the word employees of Southern Palmetto Hospital received from the top at 6 o’clock Tuesday. Doors will close. Medical care will stop.
Perry said of the patients, “We’re just transferring them out or finding other placement, but we’re not taking any more patients right now.”
Perry told News Channel 6 she’s one of more than 100 people now out of a job with little notice. A press release from CEO Michael Patterson explains “…there has been a decline in hospital volumes over the past years…” and “…maintaining a full service hospital…is not sustainable.” Patterson also pointed to a $2.5 million loss for the hospital.
Perry said she was surprised by the mood inside the building.
“Actually, it wasn’t as solemn as I thought it was. We have great owners who own the hospital. Our CEO, Mr. Patterson, I think he’s worked vigorously trying to bring the hospital back financially. It’s just one of those things that happens and we just have no control of it,” she said.
Barbara Harrell said the rural area depends on the hospital, especially the elderly and that fact that its shutting its doors will mean a more than 30 mile ride to Aiken for her.
“It stabilizes a lot of people before they’re sent to other hospitals,” Harrell said.
The Barnwell resident was one of those people after a bad car wreck in 1994.
“They had to use paddles in the ambulance before we got to the hospital. They had to use paddles in the hospital one time before they could Medivac me to Richland Memorial in Columbia,” she described.
Perry said she will be ok, “I’m from Aiken and I’ve been here a little shy of a year. So, it’s probably harder for the ones who have been here 20, 25, 30 years and just a two day notice.”
The People Sentinel, the local paper in Barnwell, reported a few years back that the hospital changed hands from the county to private owners. There were also pension problems mentioned in a separate story. Patterson said the current ownership is looking for ways to continue healthcare in the community.
Barnwell, SC (WJBF) – WJBF News Channel 6 has learned that Southern Palmetto Hospital in Barnwell will be closing its doors on Thursday.
According to the hospital’s marketing director, Tavy Perry, employees found out about the hospital’s closing around 6:00 p.m. on Tuesday.
Perry says over 100 people will be losing their jobs and the hospital is no longer accepting any more patients.
The hospital is scheduled to close at noon on Thursday.
Read the text of a press release we received from the hospital Wednesday afternoon below:
Southern Palmetto will end patient services January 21, 2016 and temporarily cease operations. The current ownership is seeking alternatives for the continuation of healthcare in the community though no plans for the future have been approved.
There has been a decline in hospital volumes over the past years to the point that maintaining a full service hospital for the current demand from acute and emergency patients is not sustainable. The hospital has been operating with losses from operations despite efforts to improve efficiency, collections, and the facility. In the most recent year, the hospital lost $2.5 million from operations due to a low patient census and uncompensated care.
The current ownership is seeking alternatives for the continuation of healthcare in the community. The managing partners of the hospital will continue to try and find ways to keep this valuable resource available to Barnwell and the surrounding area, though no plans for the future have been approved.
Southern Palmetto Hospital served the Barnwell community for over 60 years.
Our Renetta DuBose is looking further into this story and she will have much more on the closing during our Wednesday evening newscasts.