County enters discussions with HCA over healthcare
Written by Jerry E. Halmon   

After years of a “struggle” Bamberg County may be on the cusp of receiving the healthcare services it has been looking for. “We are pleased this evening to come out of executive session as a hospital board and council and announce that we are in discussions and working with Hospital Corporations of America (HCA),” Bamberg County Council Chairman Chris Wilson said at joint meeting with Bamberg County Council and Bamberg County Hospital Board members Monday night, September 24th, at the Bamberg County Courthouse.

Wilson noted the county is in discussion with HCA (which operates the Colleton Medical Center) about the “re-establishment” of 24-hour-seven days a week medical services at the Bamberg County Hospital. “We’ve had discussions with these guys over the last few months and are pleased and excited about the opportunity and potential that they bring,” Wilson said. Wilson said that the county is still in the process of negotiating and working out the terms of how HCA can re-establish services at the hospital.

The county considered several options and some of those included Barnwell County, but in the end HCA was the best option for Bamberg County. “We feel like this is the best opportunity for Bamberg County to take care of the healthcare of its citizens and to do so as soon as possible.”

Hospital Board Chairperson Dr. Danette McAlhaney echoed Wilson's thoughts about HCA. “I think Chris said it very well,” said McAlhaney. “We’re very excited about the opportunity to talk to HCA. We’re looking forward to a long-term engagement with them. We think this is the best opportunity we can have for Bamberg County. We’ll just move forward from here,” Dr. McAlhaney said.

Mitch Mongell, who has been the CEO of the Colleton Medical Center for the last five years, said he was “very excited” his medical facility had the opportunity to look at reestablishing medical services in Bamberg. “Looking at a small rural town like we are in Walterboro, we have so much potential,” Mongell said, adding “We have credibility by doing this in the past and we feel like what we have done in Florida and Walterboro-we have the experience of small rural facilities. I’m excited to work with your team and I really feel there is some viability here and challenges of course,” Mongell said.

When asked about a possible timeline for medical services to begin again in Bamberg, it could be as soon as the end of this year or first of next year for the earliest possible startup dates. “These guys know we need them as soon as possible and they want to get established as quickly as possible,” Wilson said.

In the public comments portion of the meeting, Dr. F. Marion Dwight asked if there were any provisions being considered for transporting patients out of the county to larger hospitals, given the fact the rescue squad is limited to one vehicle and that vehicle can only go to Orangeburg or Barnwell. “I would ask the County Council to look into funding a separate vehicle if we have to send someone to a more comprehensive hospital,” Dr. Dwight said. Chairman Wilson noted county officials have had a discussion with Mongell and his team about transfers to other hospitals around the state and the use of air or ground transportation. Dr McAlhaney noted being a part of a larger “entity” the hospital should not have to experience the “pains” it has in the past transporting patients. “If things work out with HCA we shouldn’t have the problems we’ve had in the past. They have lines established for transfer just a telephone call away,” Dr. McAlhaney said.