By RON BAXLEY JR. T&D Correspondent
DENMARK — Ground was broken on Jan. 19 for the new 6,400-square-foot Denmark Family Health Center on Carolina Highway/U.S. 321.
The facility is expected to cost approximately $1.2 million and will have three full-time providers offering a full range of medical services. Officials estimate a potential staff of 27.
"This center that we are going to build behind me will be accessible to all of our clients. It's on the main road. Everyone who wants to come will be able to come," said Dr. Samuel Alston, chairman of the Family Health Centers Inc. Board of Directors.
"If you know anyone who is a veteran, tell them to come see us. We serve them. We do blood pressure, obesity, dental and eye services through the (mobile units) vans on my left," Alston said.
Before ending his remarks, he said, "About a month ago, I felt very apprehensive about the way the country was going and who was going to be the president. But I don't think in my heart that the country is going to let the 20 million people we have on Medicaid and Obamacare … fall through the cracks. We are working hard to support them and enroll them and with God's help, we will persevere."
Leon A. Brunson Sr., CEO of Family Health Centers Inc., said Sixth District Congressman James E. Clyburn played a vital role in securing funding for the new Denmark Family Health Center.
"Congressman Clyburn was very instrumental in helping us get this (funding) to construct this facility, which will cost $1.2 million total. He played a major role in that. He also played a major role in all of the funding that our qualified health centers received in the state of S.C. and across this nation," Brunson said.
He noted that McDonald Law is the architect for the new Denmark facility and O'Cain of O'Cain Construction Co. of Orangeburg is the contractor.
Doris Haigler, chief operating officer of the Denmark center, said FHC Inc. has been providing healthcare for more than 40 years, "primarily to the uninsured and the underinsured."
FHC's service areas include Orangeburg, Calhoun, Bamberg and upper Dorchester counties.
"Our team of approximately 165 employees — as you see, we have two new mobile units here and eight other sites — is the key to this work, with the shared belief with our employees about our mission, which is 'to promote health and provide quality, comprehensive healthcare to all with courtesy,'" she said.
Haigler said FHC, which has operated in Denmark for 16 years, provided healthcare to more than 21,000 patients in the service area in 2015. The new Denmark Center is being built on the original FHC site that was built in 2001, she said. The center moved to Voorhees College in 2007.
"We are really pleased to see that Family Health Centers is opening a (new) facility in Bamberg County … Bamberg County has been a consistently poverty county in South Carolina for a very long time," said Dalton Tresvant of Clyburn's office. "We are really hoping that this facility will help eliminate some of the health disparities that we have in the area."
He said he's hopeful the new facility will help move Bamberg County forward.
"On behalf of the Congressman, I would like to congratulate Denmark Family Health Center on breaking ground on this facility. Now, I know over the course of the past two months, we have heard a lot about repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare," Tresvant said.
"When we think of that, we always think about people losing their health coverage. But everybody in this country that is covered by health insurance is affected by (the) Affordable Care Act," he said. "If the Affordable Care Act goes away, all of that goes away," including funding for facilities like the Denmark Family Health Center.
Dr. Gerald Wright, mayor of Denmark, commended FHC Inc. for the work it has done in his city and applauded the organization's efforts to improve its services.
"In Denmark, we are always concerned with quality of life issues. As you would all agree, I'm sure, healthcare is a major part of quality of life," Wright said.
Evert Comer, Bamberg County Council chairman, told FHC officials, "We bid you Godspeed as you continue on your venture. I live four doors down on the left. I remember as a little fellow my momma used to walk up here to this location (for doctors' appointments) … . Historically, we have come to this location. This is a sacred location right here."
In his closing remarks, Brunson noted that Denmark's public school system had produced "a fairly large number of medical doctors during the past 20 years … "
He expressed his hopes that Denmark students who go into medicine will one day return to work at the Denmark FHC, citing the financial benefits and incentives available.
While the center does not pay taxes, its employees will become taxpayers when they buy homes in the area and give back to the community, Brunson said.
Family Health Centers Inc. Board members and other dignitaries took part in the groundbreaking for the new facility, digging in with ceremonial shovels.
FHC board members are Dr. Samuel Alston, chairman; Marion Anderson; James Arrington; Tara Chavis; Crawford Dinkins; Jacob Gillens; Rogers Ideozu; Carrie Houser James; Henry Jenkins; Frances Johnson; Julius Jones; Kenneth Mosely; and James Ulmer.
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