Resolution on proposed Tri-County Healthcare

Bamberg County Council members took a step closer to a proposed Tri-County Regional Healthcare System (TCRHS) by unanimously approving two resolutions at their December 6, monthly meeting, Monday night, at the Bamberg County Courthouse.

Bamberg County attorney Richard Ness explained that a resolution “is not a binding document” and can be backed off of or can go forward authorizing certain things to be put in place. The resolutions approved by Bamberg County Council it was noted are to “go forward and to enter certain negotiations and discussions. It was stated that if the negotiations and discussions result on an agreed upon contract the contract would have to come back to county council to be considered with legal issues involved.”

“We’re a long way from a final document and a final decision,” Ness said.

The first resolution approved by council would create a subcommittee of county council persons, authorizing the chairperson of the committee to enter a letter of intent with Philadelphia-based Health Care Management LLC., to provide definitive health care on a regional basis with the three counties of Bamberg, Barnwell and Allendale.

Ness said the letter of intent is to “get the negotiations started. “There will be a lot of negotiations back and forth” which he noted are generally private to protect the people who are interested in contracting with the hospital and county and could fall apart meaning the county would have to go to “plan B.”

The second resolution approved by council members is to enter a Regional Healthcare Park Agreement with Barnwell and Allendale Counties. Ness noted that “in discussing where a possible facility “might be located some years in the future it might become a tax base. The three counties agreed to enter a multi-county healthcare park for when or where ever the facility would be located and the tax revenue and expenses would be divided equally between the three counties.

“No one county would have the full tax base or majority entering in a discussion and letter of intent. This is being done ahead of time to not have a competition on where the facility will be built,” Ness said.

After the vote to approve the resolutions were made Bamberg County Council Chairwoman Alzena Robinson said: “ I think it (the proposed new regional healthcare facility) will be really good for Bamberg County Council. Whatever we do we, we will never hurt Bamberg County, but enhance Bamberg County. Robinson encouraged citizens bring their questions to council before going to the newspapers for answers.

Part of Robinson’s statement about the newspapers was apparently in response to that of Councilman Clair P. Guess III who called the local newspapers reporting on the hospital negotiations up until Monday night as “Callous, self-serving, ill responsible and unprofessional.”

Bamberg County Councilman Chris Wilson said that the two goals council goes forward with in “not doing anything to jeopardize health care in Bamberg County” are not to close Bamberg County Hospital until there is something sufficient to take its place and not to jeopardize the employment of the people at the hospital. “We want to continue employment and grow employment and add employment,” Wilson said.

In a question and answer session with the public one member of the audience asked, how will a regional healthcare system benefit Bamberg County? Councilman Guess said it would result in “more specialization, a lot of services we don’t have now.” Another member of the hospital staff asked if Bamberg County Hospital could keep its vascular access program. “Can we be the one to have the vascular access?”

“I truly hope Dr. Ross stays,” Guess said.