Source: Post and Courier
BENNETTSVILLE — When Jaheem McLaurin’s grandmother had a stroke in 2016 there was no hospital to rush her to in Marlboro County.
Marlboro Park Hospital had accepted its last patients on April 15, 2015, and closed its doors two weeks afterward. A year later, when Linda Platt became ill, the best shot at saving her life was a hospital 35 minutes away.
During that drive, heavy thoughts raced through McLaurin’s mind.
“If we would have had some sort of health care access, whether that was an emergency room or a hospital, my grandmother could have gotten high quality health care quicker and any side effects could have been reversed sooner,” he said.
McLaurin’s grandmother ultimately survived, but the issues the family faced in light of the hospital’s closure were not unique to Marlboro County. Since 2005, 199 rural hospitals have closed or converted to limited services across the country, including four in rural parts of South Carolina: Fairfield, Bamberg, Marlboro and Barnwell counties, according to research from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Some of these providers closed as patients moved away or sought care elsewhere. Others struggle to negotiate rates and serve patients who are older and sicker.
Bennettsville is located in South Carolina’s Pee Dee region, about a 44-minute drive from the nearest urban center of Florence. Residents there and in surrounding Marlboro County face many health challenges and high rates of chronic illness, from obesity to diabetes.
Marlboro County’s average household income of $31,528 is much lower than state and national averages. Black residents, who make up over 69 percent of the population, are much more likely to live in poverty than their White counterparts. They also face staggering health disparities, making them more prone to diseases like cancer and cardiovascular diseases.