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Ongoing coverage of South Carolina's recovery from the flooding of 2015.What had been Lindsay Langdale's Columbia home October 3, 2015 was a flooded ruin the next day.This coverage is made possible by a grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. In October of 2015, South Carolina received rainfall in unprecedented amounts over just a few days time. By the time the rain began to slacken, the National Weather Service reported that the event had dumped more than two feet of water on the state. The U.S. Geological Survey reported that the subsequent flooding was the worst in 75 years.

Williamsburg Temporary Emergency Room Opens

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Rebecca Bradford
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After several months, Williamsburg has a much needed temporary emergency room. The hospital, approximately 80 miles north of Charleston was forced to shut its doors nearly three months ago after water damage from the October flooding made much of the building unusable. 

The temporary ER is made up of four connected trailers, all with a different function. The two modular buildings on either side of the main hallway are where medical procedures will take place.  

“Any kind of emergency, lifesaving procedures that you would have to do. Like a chest tube or anything,” Williamsburg Regional Hospital CEO Sharon Poston said. “There will be plenty of room so you have all the equipment that you need here to get around that person and save their lives.” 

This ER in Kingstree will serve the entire county of more than 30,000 people spread out over more than 900 miles.  According to2013 data from the Department of Health and Environmental Control, one of the leading causes of death in Williamsburg county is diseases of the heart. The hospital’s chief doctor Troy Gamble said he treats several patients a week for heart related problems. 

“It will be so much better for this community to have an active emergency room that is full service and that can stabilize people,” Gamble said. “That has an emergent operating room if emergent types of surgery need to be done.”

While the ER will give doctors a place to stabilize people, Gamble said he will still have to send patients to other places for longer term care. Because most of the rest of the hospital is still closed down. 

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Credit Alexandra Olgin
This part of the modular emergency room has five hospital beds.

“The thing we still miss sorely is our inpatient hospital which stayed quite busy and allowed people to seek care locally,” he said. 

In the meantime, patients will be transferred to a hospital about 20 minutes away in Lake City. But Gamble warns it can be risky to transport people who are already sick down bumpy roads in ambulances or in helicopters. 

“I’ve flown in helicopters with patients and worried sick that I was missing something because I couldn't hear the blood pressure, because I couldn’t hear the heartbeat,” he said. 

Gamble and his team of doctors now travel to that hospital to continue care for patients. A temporary inpatient hospital is scheduled to open in Williamsburg within the next six months. For help with the rebuilding, the hospital called in the experts. 

“Some of the previous disasters I personally worked on,” Joshua Gill with the Plexos Group said, “Katrina, Rita, Gustav, Ike, Hurricane Sandy.” 

Gill comes into areas like Williamsburg after disasters to help guide the hospital through all the rules and regulations that go along with aid from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The hospital is relying on insurance and FEMA money to cover most of the costs.   

“There is over 900 federal rules and regulations that go with each dollar,” Gill said. “Navigating through that and making sure that you are following all the documentation, policies and protocols is very challenging.”  

Gill warns reimbursement can take a while. In the meantime, hospital CEO Sharon Poston is trying to save every way she can. 

“I’ve told everybody we need to be just as frugal as we can, let’s not be wasteful of anything,” she said. “Let’s take care of the people, by the same token be careful not to throw things away. Just be very careful.”

Poston says the old brick hospital building she worked for years to restore will likely be torn down and a new permanent hospital will be built next to it. But she doesn’t expect that to be finished for another few years.  

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Williamsburg Regional Hospital CEO Sharon Poston spent almost four years fixing up the hospital before the October 2015 floods.
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CEO Sharon Poston says the hospital needs more doctors to care for the volume of patients.