Barnwell, SC (WJBF) – On Thursday, Southern Palmetto Hospital closed their doors leaving more than 140 people out of work and citizens of Barnwell worried about the future of their local healthcare system. WJBF News Channel 6’s Stefany Bornman has the community’s reaction to the hospital’s sudden closure.
For 61 years, Southern Palmetto Hospital provided healthcare services to Barnwell and surrounding counties. Now the biggest concern for patients is the long distances they will have to travel to get the medical attention they need.
It was an emotional day in Barnwell, South Carolina. During a prayer vigil, in the front parking lot of the Southern Palmetto Hospital, people came to show their support for the life-long healthcare providers that served them for so many years.
“There are people, who are in this community, who were born at this hospital. There are people in this community who have seen their family members leave the world at this hospital,” said Lead Pastor of the First Baptist Church of Barnwell Keith Richardson.
For Misty Mccully this hospital opened a new door in her life, after she lost her job as a nurse at the Bamberg County Hospital. She says she knows first-hand that not having easy access to healthcare services creates many problems.”I’ve seen the impact of our hospital closure in 2012 and I just I feel for the community… the elderly, the persons here that aren’t able to get to longer distances when they have a medical emergency,” said the former Nurse of Southern Palmetto Hospital.
Pastor Richardson says he used the full-service facility for his regular check-ups and during emergencies he appreciated the convenience of having the hospital close-by. “I’ve had kidney stones twice in the last three to four years and I came right here and got great treatment and good care and I can’t imagine having to drive in the pain that I was in,” Richardson told WJBF News Channel 6.
More than 21,000 people currently live in the county and seniors will be the most affected by this closure.
“This is a safety net for them. Let’s say they’re scared or they are feeling bad… they knew that they could get in the car and drive 5 minutes and just get someone to check them and make sure that they were okay,” said Jess Wilbanks CPO of Barnwell County United Way.
Now residents of Barnwell will have to drive at least 30 minutes to the closest hospital. Some employees, WJBF News Channel 6 spoke with, says they have been offered jobs at other hospitals in the area. Yet, they still worry about the future of their patients in Barnwell.