Hospital Board Members Briefed on New Hospital

Rick Greene of Dobbs Equity Partners LLC., gave Bamberg County Hospital Board members an update on the regional hospital that according to a January 24, press release is now slated to be built in Bamberg County about two miles from the Barnwell County line and sought to answer questions about the sustainability of the existing facility until the new one is built.

“We think it’s a good location,” Greene said of the end of Ghents Branch Road and intersection of Highway 78 location outside of Denmark selected for the two stories, 70,000 square foot, 25 bed facility that “could be easily” expanded to add 25 more beds on a third floor.

Greene said the proposed facility is close to being “equal distance” between the cities of Bamberg and Barnwell and located 10 miles from the city of Bamberg and 12 miles from the city of Barnwell. Greene noted that Dobbs spent six months studying where to put the hospital and received input from hospital administrators, “people who built hospitals” and consultants “who tell people where to build hospitals.”

“We can never make everybody happy, but what we try to do is look at it very rationally,” Greene said, adding that 80 percent of the population of both counties lived within 15 minutes of the hospital. Greene noted the “single biggest challenge” has been utilities at the site. He noted that utilities coming out of Denmark only go pass the old Holland Atlantic Hitch plant. The site will have access to natural gas and electricity. Water and sewer must be run to the site.

“And that’s going to cost,” Greene said. “That’s part of the challenge we have,” he commented, adding again “we think it’s a good location.” He said Dobbs will plan to file a certificate of need with the state to receive permission to build the hospital by January 31.

Greene said the new hospital would include three-full time operating rooms of 525 square feet each, an emergency room with nine treatment rooms, plus three rooms for over flow and a swing bed facility to name a few of the amenities.

Trustee board member Randy Maxwell told Greene about the day-to-day challenges of operating the struggling BCMH hospital: “Our challenge is healthcare until you open the doors,” Maxwell, a former chairman of the hospital board said, adding “it’s a struggle to serve people here month-to-month.”

Greene noted in responding to Maxwell’s inquiry that the challenges the Bamberg County Hospital faced were not unique: “You’re not alone,” Greene said. “Barnwell has the same challenges you have.” Greene commented that Dobbs was committed to having a multi-specialty clinic in Bamberg and Barnwell six to twelve months after the purchase of the existing hospital is complete. Trustee board member and finance committee Chairman Al Palmer wanted to know what the hospital was suppose to do in the interim, until the six to twelve month after purchase time is up. “Until we complete the purchase, our hands are tied,” Greene responded to Palmer. Palmer also asked Greene whether the emergency room at the hospital would continue to operate after the purchase is complete.

“I don’t know if the emergency room is going to stay open, I’m not going to miss lead you,” Greene said, noting that the emergency room is presently losing $200,000 per month or $2.4 million per year. “You guys signed up with a family. It’s John Dobb’s money and my money. To come in and lose $3 or $4 million dollars per year, we could not do that. It’s an unfortunate situation.”

A joint meeting of the Bamberg County Council and Bamberg County Hospital Board was held on Thursday, January 12 at 6:30 p.m. in the Bamberg County Courthouse. On the agenda was a business item for consideration to discuss a contractual/legal matter regarding Bamberg County. After a one hour closed meeting, County Council members reconvened to open session with County Council Chairman Chris Wilson stating:

“At this time the hospital is not in need of any type of cash infusion from the County according to the cash projections from the hospital. We won’t need to take up any consideration in that regard,” Wilson said noting, "the hospital board had stated last year that in January they may need some financial assistance to continue to operate on a short term basis while waiting for revenue to come in that would allow them to operate on a longer term basis."

Wilson said he wanted to thank BCMH Board Chairwoman Dr. Danette McAlhaney and the hospital board, staff of the hospital, hospital CFO Sally Border and Administrator John Hales for doing a “very good job” of continuing the operation at the hospital. “Thank you for the work you are doing and keeping a tight rein on the on the hospital,” Wilson continued.

BCMH Board Chairwoman Dr. Danette McAlhaney said she appreciated the help from County Council and thanked everyone for working with the hospital board. Councilwoman Alzena Robinson also thanked the board for their hard work.

Also during the meeting Council members held a moment of silence in recognition of the passing of E-911 employee Jim Pruiett.