A Grand Opening ceremony was held yesterday afternoon outside the entrance to the new Laurens County Community Care Center, or LC4, at the Laurens County Memorial Hospital. It’s a partnership between the hospital and Carolina Health Centers, which provides health services in 7 counties of Western South Carolina. Carolina Health Center Board Chairman John Britt of Waterloo welcomed those attending the event. He said “LC4 is a shining result of a longstanding partnership devoted to the excellence in primary and preventive care in a medical home environment.”
Carolina Health Centers CEO Sue Veer noted that the LC4 addresses a well known problem, saying “Utilizations of emergency departments for routine primary care in a driver of health care costs in our country and it doesn’t necessarily result in improved health outcomes, particularly for chronically ill patients.”
Veer said the LC4 model is to provide convenient access with an affordable primary care medical home, also using patient education and referrals to the appropriate setting while actively engaging the patient in managing their health.
GHS Laurens County Memorial Hospital President and CEO Rich D’Alberto referred to changes in the health care industry, advancing in understanding its mission to help patients get the right treatment from the right place at the right time. D’Alberto said “We for a long time had thought that we’ve been in the hospital business. And then we realized after a few years that we were in the health care business. And now we’re turning the corner and we’re in the coordination of care business.”
United States Congressman Jeff Duncan said he’s pleased to see this new development in Laurens County, which he heard about years ago in meetings with Rich D’Alberto, where people who are not only given an alternative to the ER…“but it’s more about creating a health home, and I think that’s the vision that Rich and I talked about then, is that if we can have folks that come to LC4, establish a health home, then they can start getting better quality care than multiple visits to the emergency room where they’re treated for symptoms, they’re treated for the affliction at that point in time; they can actually start having a doctor that starts to understand and provides a treatment plan and really treat men as a home health physician would.”
LC4 is a Federally Qualified Health Center, providing health care for insured patients and with a sliding scale payment rate for uninsured.
The groundbreaking nature of the LC4 was highlighted in comments from the head of our state’s Medicaid agency. Tony Keck, Director of Health and Human Services in South Carolina, recalled that those planning LC4 were among the first he met when he came to South Carolina. He said he was bringing best wishes for the new LC4 from the Governor. “Governor Haley has been very clear with all the conversations around the Affordable Care act, the Medicaid expansion and so on, that we can and should get health care to everyone in need. This is the way to do it. This is a way that’s built around the individual, it’s built around the community and we’re going to do everything that we can to support this center but also help move it across the rest of the state.”
Thornton Kirby, President and CEO of the Laurens County Hospital Association, said the LC4 partnership at Laurens County Memorial Hospital is innovative.“To my knowledge it’s the first fusion like this of its kind in the state. I haven’t heard of a lot of them around the country.” Kirby praised the LC4 development in Laurens County as action on health care, not just talk. “It offers patients the appropriate choice at the appropriate moment, and that’s really what’s missing in our health care system.”
Latham Woodward of the South Carolina Primary Health Care Association praised LC4 as an example of what’s needed across the state. She said “It’s because of the people. And I’ve said this before about Rich and Sue – the dynamic duo. And it wasn’t ‘here are the barriers’ it was ‘what do we have to plow through to get it done.’ So if you guys can do it, then it can be done in other places in the state.”
Ms. Woodward presented her Association’s 2014 Community Championship Award to Representative Mike Pitts for supporting state funding for community health centers. She said ‘we need more champions to speak for the people.”
Representative Mike Pitts said there are only so many dollars, either at the state or national level, and it’s important to make the most of our resources, whether for health care, water and sewer or any other area. He praised the hospital reclaiming the old ER for the new use, right beside the entrance to the new ER. “I’m an old cop and an old soldier, I like direct lines. Direct lines of fire, direct lines of march. When I pull up here I know I can get health care whether I’m having a heart attack or whether I just need to get a cut looked at. I can find it right here in one location. Good job. (applause)
LC4 plans to expand evening and weekend hours this year.