Center to close, hospital eyes building

News & Reporter
The negative closure of a public health center may turn into a positive factor for another health facility. The S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control has announced plans to close the Great Falls Health Center at 404 Chester Ave. The Great Falls Health Center opened in 1990, according to Liz Freeman, Chester County Health Department nurse/supervisor. The public health facility will be consolidated into the main Chester County Public Health Department at 129 Wylie St. in Chester after December 2012. Two other public health facilities, one in Kershaw and another in Swansea, will be consolidated into nearby facilities also. “These small health centers offered only limited services that can be provided more efficiently at other locations,” said Ernie Bell, Ph.D and health director for DHEC’s Region 3 Public Health, which includes Chester, Lancaster and Lexington counties. “We regret the inconvenience that this consolidation might cause for a small number of our clients, but we will continue to offer the services at other nearby offices.” The service change will take effect Jan. 1, 2013.

“To help make this change as convenient as possible for our clients, we will offer to transfer their medical records to public health offices in a neighboring county if that site would be closer or more convenient,” Bell said. “We will make every effort to ensure the changes have as little impact as we can while helping our clients continue to receive competent and efficient healthcare.” For years, health care services were provided five days a week at the clinic. But over time, services scaled back to two days a month – the first and third Tuesday of the month.

Freeman said the decision was made at the regional level and was based on less patients and less staff. “I loved working there and the people of Great Falls are great,” Freeman said. Freeman hopes patients will make appointments at the Chester facility. The staff wants to continue to provide needed services, she said. Freeman also encourages patients to get their flu vaccine this year. Most physicians offices offer the vaccine. The vaccine is also available at some pharmacies including CVS, Rite Aid and Walgreens. Walmart and some grocery stores also offer the vaccine. To schedule an appointment in Chester, patients should call 1-800-403-4047 toll free. Although the closure of the health department appears as a negative to some people, Freeman said it could be viewed as a positive because of future possibilities for the building.

“It could be a step forward for Great Falls,” Freeman said. Chester Regional Medical Center is hoping to obtain the building. CRMC Chief Executive Officer Page Vaughan said the hospital would like to acquire the building and transfer Great Falls Family Medicine to the newer office.

“Due to the great support in Great Falls, space is limited,” Vaughan said. He said Family Nurse Practitioners Terry Sims and Lori Juarez need more space. The current office has four exam rooms and one emergency room. The office also has a small waiting area. Office staff are cramped and need more space for files. There is also limited parking. The health department building would provide more space, a better presence and additional parking, Vaughan said. Vaughan credited Sims and Chester Healthcare Foundation Board Members Dan Peach and Ralph Garris for their support in trying to obtain the building. If the hospital can acquire the building from the county, the hospital will take the insurance, maintenance and upkeep burden off the county, Vaughan said.

“The building will be kept up and used,” he said. “We’re trying to work it out. It lends a better place to see patients. It’s a win/win situation,” Vaughan said. Chester County Supervisor Carlisle Roddey said he does not want the building to sit vacant. He remembers the groundbreaking for construction of the facility. “I want to see it occupied,” Roddey said. “We’re going to work it out to lease it to them.”