County Council meets Denmarks fulltime FHC internist

During the Bamberg County Council regular meeting on March 7, Bamberg County hospital administrator Cliff Bauer introduced Dr. Thomas Gaffney, a new fulltime internist who will be practicing at the Denmark Family Health Center. Gaffney, who began working on the same day of the meeting, said he was looking forward to working with Bamberg County and wants to hear ideas about ways that his office can contribute to improving medical care for the community. Council Chairman Clint Carter wanted to know if Dr. Gaffney would be referring his clients to the Bamberg County Hospital. Gaffney said patients make their own decision about where to go, but he said it has been his experience that patients want to go to the closest facility. Bauer said on the other hand, the more opportunities that the hospital has to secure and keep specialists, the better the chances that patients are willing to stay in Bamberg.

Also on hand to support the new Denmark Family Health Center internist was Leon Brunson, the CEO for Family Health Centers. Brunson, an Orangeburg resident and formerly of Denmark, said he wanted the community to know that he was glad to have the opportunity to serve his hometown. In reference to progress with the possibility of bringing a Family Health Center to Ehrhardt, Brunson is actively meeting with state representatives in hopes of securing funding opportunities and support, noted Bauer. Also, during Bauer’s report, he said Brunson has been very forthcoming about building bridges and utilizing the Bamberg County Hospital.

Bauer announced that the hospital will lose 12 staff members as a result of surgeon John Ross transferring his medical practice to the Regional Medical Center. Bauer said his surgical staff has resigned to continue working with Ross. “Losing Dr. Ross will leave a big hole in our patient volume. The board is meeting with three surgeons who are interested in serving Bamberg County at least one day a week,” Bauer noted.

Bauer also addressed recent news publications regarding the hospital and the Board of Public Works. Bauer said he is not sure where the information is coming from, but the hospital has never been behind with their BPW utility bill. “We have never paid a late fee or anything. This is one of the few bills that we have never been late with”, he said. Councilman Chris Wilson said he thought the information may have stemmed from some concern that the hospital board had when the hospital was trying to figure out the true financial status of the hospital. Bauer said he wrote a letter to the editor elaborating on the article.

The status of the tri-county hospital initiative is still in the due diligence stage according to Wilson. Wilson said the HMP (Hospital Management Program) is moving forward and “we know that the hospital staff is doing everything they can to move forward.” Wilson said he believes that the board will be able to take the next step in a couple of months. Bauer said part of the issue has been trying to complete the hospital’s financial audit that has been impeded by incomplete information from former staff members that is needed to finalize the audit.

Kell Anderson, Bamberg County Project Manager for SCRDA economic development group, updated council on ongoing projects. Anderson said SCRDA is moving forward with the recruiting process for two wood processing companies for Bamberg County. He said he hosted a visit with Project Wolfe representatives a couple of weeks ago and they were concerned about wetlands issues with the site that the group hand prepared. Anderson said the group is looking at alternative sites. Anderson also reported that Project Brick, the other wood processing company had been assigned a project manager from the Commerce department to work with on the recruitment process. Additionally Anderson reported that he is meeting with a company on March 22 who has expressed interest in the Crossroads Spec Building.

During public comments, Becky Swindell expressed concern about a news article that was published in another paper regarding a grant that had been obtained to “teach children how to pick up trash.” Bamberg County administrator Rose Dobson-Elliott said the grant that Swindell was referring to was the Palmetto Pride grant and the funds will in part be used teach students how to pick up litter among other public education programs. Dobson-Elliot said the county’s litter control board will make recommendations for how the funds will be used. Swindell wanted to know why the county isn’t doing more to involve those who have been sentenced to community service to pick up litter. Wilson responded, “right now, there isn’t proper supervision for those being sentenced for community service and that will be one of the responsibilities of the animal/litter control officer when one is hired”. The county is currently taking applications for that position.

In other business:

• Wilson wanted to know the status of the county’s ordinance regarding dilapidated houses and unkempt properties. Dobson-Elliot said she has someone from the land commission checking on the properties. Councilwoman Alzena Robinson said she continues to get complaints about the property going out of Bamberg towards Ehrhardt and she wanted to know what types of notices are being served to the landowner. Wilson requested specific information about residence who have been summons to court about the property and the status of those who are not in compliance. The Bamberg County Building inspector has the task of making recommendations for unkempt property in the county.

• Wilson also reported on the status of Denmark and Bamberg’s highway widening project. “The goal is to create some space on 78 for a bike path and be able to have a more functional highway,” he said. Wilson said the Denmark highway 78/321 project should begin by the first of next year.

• In light of all of the federal cuts in funding, Councilman Claire Guess gained the support of council to introduce a resolution that “we not pass on federal cuts to our local citizens. We don’t have the resources to burden our local citizens with funds that we are losing from federal cuts,” he said.

• Finance director Thomas Thomas said the county’s finance audit should be ready my March 21. He also reported that two unexpected expenses occurred during the month that included repairing an industrial water pump for 3,200 and spending 1,800 to repair a generator in the Agriculture Building.

• Wilson said there has been a request to put a traffic light in front of the Bamberg Piggly Wiggly Center, but DOT (Department of Transportation) said the traffic count does not support a traffic light in the area. Council is looking at other alternatives.