Originally written November 2016
It’s no secret among Fairfield County residents that our Fairfield Memorial Hospital has had its share of financial struggles over the years. Rumors have been circulating for some time that the hospital may be under risk of closure. This rumor was not made better by the nearly $500k loan that the hospital received from the Fairfield County Council this year to help maintain operations. Often, residents opt to bypass the hospital, whether for routine or emergency care, in favor of going to Columbia hospitals where the facilities are perceived to be of higher quality. Some even go as far as disparagingly referring to FMH as “the band-aid hospital”.
I sat down with Suzanne Doscher, CEO of FMH to get her take on the financial stability of the hospital and to gain a clearer understanding of what range of care the hospital has to offer Fairfield County residents.
Doscher, states that in her 30 years of working in rural hospitals throughout SC, rumors of closure have been a constant. While it is true that the hospital has experienced some financial difficulty, those challenges are being addressed in a responsible way by the hospital’s board members. Along with the loan from Fairfield County Council, the FMH Foundation hosts fundraising events such as the annual BBQ, Bluegrass, & Bluejeans Benefit, Christmas Gala, and Healthy Strides. In addition to funding from those events, the hospital is strategically building relationships with healthcare providers in the Midlands.
For example, clinical integration, which entails cooperation with healthcare providers throughout the Midlands, helps the hospital to connect the community with more specialists. According to Doscher, if a person is experiencing a heart attack or stroke, they should definitely go to a facility that specializes in that particular care. However, making FMH Emergency Room their 1st stop is often the best way to get the quickest response in such serious cases. Many of the ER physicians at FMH circulate throughout Columbia and Lexington hospitals as well. So, one essentially gets the same level of expertise as they would get from those hospitals but often with a much shorter wait time and will be connected with the appropriate area specialists as needed.
The hospital offers a wide range of healthcare services to the community. The Buchannan Rehabilitation center offers physical, occupational, cardiac, and speech therapies. So, even for those who do require specialized care outside of the county, they may not have to drive so far to get rehab once their major work is done. The hospital provides MRI’s and CT scans on site. Residents may see the hospital’s screening vans at local churches & businesses providing education and preventive health screenings. The Fairfield Life Improvement Program (FLIP) provides medical and lifestyle assistance for patients with diabetes and heart disease. Wellness Works is a cooperative effort between the hospital and local employers to help their employees make the most of their healthcare insurance. And the list goes on.
Doscher emphasized that the hospital is always looking for ways to improve its service to the community. One of the ways the community can help is by utilizing the Care Improvement Line at 803.712.0319.
In closing our meeting, I commented, ‘This certainly doesn’t seem like an organization that’s looking to close’. Doscher’s response was not surprising considering that throughout our talk she had continually spoken of the expertise and commitment of her staff. She replied simply, ‘We want to provide high quality care to this community. It deserves it.’