Multi-County Hospital deal dead

Bamberg County Attorney Richard Ness announced Thursday night that the multi-county hospital deal between Bamberg and Barnwell is over. This announcement was made after Bamberg County Council and Bamberg County Hospital Board members met for approximately two hours in a closed executive session.

“Today discussions between Dobbs and Bamberg and Barnwell ended. Dobbs and HMP have no ongoing relationship. The deal that Stroudwater put together has ended with out success. The multi-county consortium has ended.

We continue to explore all options and still have discussions ongoing. But we also have had other independent discussions with a different entity today.

The hospital announced a restructuring process today. Further review of hospital functions and financial resources could result in a different arrangement or the temporary cessation of health services, depending on the status of our continuing discussions,” said Ness.

When the question was asked, if the hospital was to close temporarily, would DHEC allow it to reopen, Councilman Chris Wilson replied, “I can’t answer that question.”

During Thursday's special meeting, Bamberg County Council approved first reading of an ordinance to obtain a $500,000 Tax Anticipation Note (TAN) for use by the hospital. A second reading of the TAN was approved Saturday morning.

According to Council member Chris Wilson the TAN would have no impact on residents' taxes, but will provide the county with a means to draw funds on future revenues. It must be repaid by April 30, 2012, through means other than more taxes on county residents.

When asked if Bamberg County Hospital might close, Council member Clair Guess III said, "We are not finished by any measures. This has been a very hard path and the hospital staff has struggled through these difficult times. But, anytime an entity is faced with a reorganization challenge in bankruptcy court, closing is an option."

Hospital Board Chairman Dr. Danette McAlhaney sent out a memorandum Thursday announcing that the restructuring process would begin later in the day to include a reduction in staff.

"As each of you know, Bamberg County Hospital had filed for Chapter 9 restructuring. Under this restructuring, it will be necessary to make some organizational changes to the hospital in order to conserve and extend the hospital's resources. Our goal is to continue to provide quality healthcare services to the citizens of Bamberg County and surrounding areas during this process," McAlhaney said.

She said 38 hospital employees had been laid off Thursday, leaving approximately 60 employees.

She said the TAN funds would allow the hospital to avoid further reduction of staff.

According to McAlhaney on Friday, Bamberg County officials are in discussions with the Regional Medical Center of Orangeburg.

Bamberg County officials say salvaging the hospital is their top priority at this time.

County council and the hospital board held a joint meeting Wednesday August 3 at the courthouse. A public hearing and third reading of the ordinance is scheduled for Aug. 15.