Dorchester Co. receives $1 million grant to provide healthcare to rural areas

Funds received from the Emergency Rural Health Care Grant will be used to renovate a former women’s detention center into an urgent care facility in St. George.
Published: Oct. 16, 2022 at 4:28 PM EDT|Updated: Oct. 17, 2022 at 4:08 AM EDT
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DORCHESTER COUNTY, S.C. (WCSC) - Funds received from the Emergency Rural Health Care Grant will be used to renovate a former women’s detention center into an urgent care facility in St. George.

By renovating the 8,200-square-foot building at 100 Sears Street, Dorchester County hopes to provide medical services to the western end of the county.

Dorchester County Administrator Jason Ward explains the county has heard a lot from the community about concerns regarding healthcare in the area. Now during the proposal process of planning, they want to include what the area has been missing.

“We don’t want to have to go so far away from home to get basic care and urgent care,” Ward said. “These are services that are pretty common in more populated areas; but using these funds, we think we’ll be able to attract some quality providers to provide better health care in that area.”

The goal is to establish a center for lab work and diagnostics, radiology, X-rays, CT scans, MRIs, telemedicine, COVID testing and vaccinations.

The building where the new facility will be located was constructed in 2003 and was formerly used as a women’s detention center through late 2016. The estimated cost for construction and adaptive reuse of the structure/site improvements for the new center is $2.5 million.

“It’s really about making the area sustainable,” Ward said. “There was a lot of concern when we closed the detention center that it was going to kind of leave a hole in the community; but now, we’re really plugging that in. I see this as kind of full circle for that site, repurposing it, having it be something that the community really needs and filling that niche that’s been unfulfilled.”

The county applied for and received a USDA grant that provides funding for healthcare in rural areas. In total, the grant provides $110 million to 208 organizations across 43 states. South Carolina’s rural communities are set to receive over $6 million in funding.

“We’re making sure that we can have good hours you know,” Ward said. “People don’t just have healthcare challenges between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. That’s a really big part of the proposal process, getting a provider that can come in and provide those services.”

The request for proposals is due by Oct 28. Construction for the new urgent care facility is planned to end by the beginning of 2024.