Ground broken for freestanding emergency dept.

  • Local, state and federal officials joined staff from the Regional Medical Center to break ground on the Bamberg/Barnwell Emergency Medical Center near Denmark on Tuesday, August 8. Construction is expected to take about a year.

Local, state and federal officials were on hand Tuesday morning for the groundbreaking of the Bamberg/Barnwell Emergency Medical Center (EMC).

The Regional Medical Center (RMC) in Orangeburg, which owns the EMC, broke ground Tuesday morning on the construction of the new freestanding emergency department for Bamberg and Barnwell counties.

The event was held August 8 at 10 a.m. at the construction site on Highway 70, just west of Denmark in Bamberg County. Everyone gathered inside an air-conditioned tent for the speeches and then select dignitaries went outside to ceremoniously turn a shovel of dirt to start the project.

The 20,000-square foot facility will include 24-hour emergency care with CT scan, X-Ray and ultrasound diagnostic imaging, lab and observation services, according to a press release by RMC.

Located on 10 acres of land adjacent to Highway 70 between the cities of Denmark and Barnwell, “the emergency department will be easily accessible for the populations of both Bamberg and Barnwell counties,” states the release.

“RMC is very excited about the new freestanding emergency medical center project for Bamberg and Barnwell counties. We look forward to extending our services to those underserved areas and bringing convenient access to healthcare to those who need it,” said RMC Vice President of Strategy & Compliance Brenda Williams, MHA, FACHE.

It is projected that construction will take 12 months.

GMK is the design building firm for the project.

Among those attending the event were U.S. Congressman James E. Clyburn, Congressman Joe Wilson, S.C. Senator Brad Hutto, Rep. Lonnie Hosey and Sen. John Matthews.

Speakers said hospital, state and local leadership met frequently over the last few years, particularly since the closing of hospitals in Barnwell and Bamberg counties, to find a solution to the healthcare issues. A regional approach was decided upon.

When officials sought a sponsor for the emergency center, Regional Medical Center in Orangeburg was credited with “stepping up” to make it a reality.

The plan had to get approval not only by Bamberg and Barnwell counties but also by Orangeburg and Calhoun counties.

It also had to get funded and that’s where federal officials stepped in with the collaboration of the South Carolina Lowcountry Promise Zone and the U.S. Department of Agriculture which oversees Promise Zones in rural areas.

The project will utilize approximately $100,000 from USDA Rural Development funds made available by Congressman Clyburn’s 10-20-30 initiative.

Clyburn said the realization of the project was the result of a lot of “being prepared” to take advantage of an opportunity when it came along. He said in 2008 there was a bi-partisan meeting on Congress to consider how to recover from the economic downtown. He said his concern was to get some of the money allocated “into the communities with needs.”

He explained the U.S. Census Bureau defines consistent poverty levels as “any community with 20 percent or more of the population that is stuck within the poverty levels for over 30 years is classified as a consistent poverty community.”

He said he told those working on the bill that they needed to make sure that 10 percent of the money allocated would go to communities that were defined as consistent poverty communities.

“Ten percent of the money going to the 20 percent of the population stuck with consistent poverty for over 30 years – that’s where the 10-20-30 initiative came from,” said Clyburn.

He said he got support from Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, a republican, to add it to the Recovery Act.

It is from that fund that $100,000 of the Rural Development Fund was made available to help pay for the construction of the emergency center.

He said Michele Cardwell, acting director for rural development for the USDA, who has been working with the SC Lowcountry Promise Zone, pushed to get the funding allocated.

RMC Board of Trustees Chairman Melvin Seabrooks, RMC interim president Berton Whitaker and Betty Henderson, strategic planning committee chairperson for the RMC, all thanked those who had a part in getting the project to this point.

“We are excited for the opportunity to provide the Bamberg/Barnwell Emergency Medical Center,” said Seabrooks.

“We are working hard” to extend “a tradition of trust and professional care” to the community, said Whitaker. “We are honored to participate in this.”