The Times And Democrat Govan: Health Care Should Be A Right; Family Health Centers Celebrates At Luncheon

Faith and vision have helped sustain Family Health Centers as it provides health care in Orangeburg and at its six satellite sites, according to Rep. Jerry Govan.

The Orangeburg Democrat joined others recently in celebrating the organization's achievements. Orangeburg County Top 10: RMC, FHC are leading providers

"I don't think we really understand how important the contributions of this Family Health Center have been to this community and to this state," Govan said.

"I want to challenge the staff, I want to challenge this board to keep on keeping on. We wrestle today with perhaps the most challenging, complex public policy issue of our time: accessible, affordable, high-quality health care for all," he said, noting that it "should be a right and not a privilege."

FHC sees healthy growth Govan was the keynote speaker during Family Health Centers' annual Legislative Breakfast, which was held at the New Vision Center in Orangeburg.

National Health Care Center Week 2018 was observed Aug. 12-18, marking the 53rd year of the community health center movement. The theme for 2018 was "Celebrating Health Centers: Home of America's Health Care Heroes."

Family Health Centers Inc. is part of a nationwide network of health centers that serve more than 27 million Americans, providing care to the medically vulnerable and underserved.

Family Health Centers gets funds to improve care, services Family Health Centers Inc. began as the Orangeburg County Consumer Health Council, which was founded in September 1969 and was chartered in January 1970.

Family Health Centers has its main Orangeburg site on Magnolia Street in Orangeburg, along with six satellites sites in Denmark, Vance, Holly Hill, Norway, St. Matthews and St. George.

Govan said what Family Health Centers has done throughout its service region is noteworthy.

"You've given one in seven Medicaid beneficiaries health, one in three individuals who are in poverty, one in five low-income individuals. And you've saved the health care system some $27 million, or an estimated 24 percent in savings, by providing services to over 22,000 patients.

"You've obtained a good report by providing some 246 jobs to people, many who live … in the community. That generates an economic impact of in excess of $20.5 million and some $2 million in tax revenues," he said.

The legislator added, "Can you imagine Orangeburg and this vicinity absent 246 jobs and $20.5 million? All I'm trying to say is that because of the faith of a few people with a vision, who had faith with purpose, who turned ordinary into extraordinary … you've received a good report."

Govan said the state has taken measures to improve health care, including providing $3.5 million in increased funding for the state's Rural Health Initiative and $5 million through a telemedicine proviso for continued infrastructure development, along with a $1 million increase in recurring funds for telemedicine operations.

"There are a lot of things going on, but the concern here is: Are we really putting the funds where they're needed in which the total community has access?" Govan said.

Family Health Centers offers vital services

He said community health centers have been a model of providing "quality prevention and primary health care for many of the most underserved of the community."

But he also noted, "We need to educate individuals, we need to educate families and we need to educate communities in terms of healthy nutrition, healthy lifestyles and the importance of preventive care.

"As chairman-elect of the Legislative Black Caucus, we're committed to this," he said, noting that collaboration between the government, health care and education communities will be the "key to expand and build out what we have going on right now."

"I believe we must strive through innovation to come up with new ways to not only make health care more affordable, but find creative ways to recruit and retain the necessary health professionals, i.e., the doctors, specialists, nurses and other paraprofessionals and support staff," Govan said.

"We must understand that health care for all has to become more than a perception. It must become a reality."

During the program, Govan was presented with an Outstanding Service Award and the following were presented Hero Care Awards: Polly Gardner, Frances Johnson, Rodney Johnson and William Richburg. Lamont Roach accepted the award on behalf of his late great-grandfather Clifton Thomas. Emma F. Blocker and Bessie Charley were not present to receive their awards.

During the breakfast, FHC Chief Finance Officer Shasonda Amous read a proclamation from Gov. Henry McMaster, who proclaimed Aug. 12-18 as S.C. Health Center Week. A proclamation was also read from Orangeburg Mayor Michael Butler proclaiming Aug. 12-18 as National Health Care Week.

Family Health Centers CEO Leon Brunson Sr. said the center is financially sound and takes pride in maintaining its mission to promote health and provide quality comprehensive health care to all with courtesy.

"We take a great deal of pride in serving our patients with a smile," Brunson said.

Family Health Centers is looking to provide telemedicine services to 28,000 children in the Calhoun County School District, Denmark-Olar School District 2 and the Orangeburg County Consolidated District over the next two years.

Following the breakfast, he said, "We're also building a training center in the lower part of our campus, where we will have adequate space to have this type of affair and any other large meeting we want to hold" within the next eight months.

He said the Family Health Centers is a "safety net" for many who would otherwise not be able to afford health care.

"A lot of people just can't afford to pay the price for health care, but when they come to a safety net, which is a federally qualified health center, we're going to see them because the federal government helps subsidize us. Medication is very reasonable for those populations," he said.