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Greenwood County Council votes to leave Greenwood Partnership Alliance

Greenwood County ended its relationship with Greenwood Partnership Alliance on Tuesday night.

In a 6-1 vote, the Greenwood County Council voted to end its membership and funding of the economic development organization. The county contributes $300,000 annually.

Councilman Robbie Templeton, who attended the council meeting by way of Google Meet, was the lone dissenting vote.

Before the vote, Chairman Steve Brown opened the floor for public comment.

Greenwood CPW Commissioner Art Bush was the only one present who chose to speak in support of Partnership Alliance during the public comment period. He pleaded with council members to table the discussion and to accept a proposal to meet with Partnership Alliance to resolve their differences.

Brown read into the record three letters in favor of continued county support, which were submitted by GPA Board Chairman Chip Stockman, Countybank President and GPA Board Member Thornwell Dunlap III, and Self Family Foundation President Frank Wideman.

After Brown finished reading the letters, Councilman Mark Allison made the motion to remove support from the GPA, which was seconded by Vice Chairman Chuck Moates.

Brown was the only one to speak during County Council’s discussion.

“Should Greenwood County Council once again authorize a payment of $300,000 to an organization that has exhibited deficient leadership for a number of years,” Brown asked.

He listed some of the reasons Greenwood County was seeking to terminate its membership, such as public chiding by GPA board members and disparaging remarks about County Council.

“The organizational structure of the GPA provides little or no credible process of accountability of the CEO,” Brown said.

Brown said each member of County Council expressed similar concerns about Partnership Alliance.

Some County Council members declined to speak on the matter, saying that Brown’s statement summed up their feelings on the matter.

Brown said it was the hardest decision he has had to make as a councilman.

After the vote, supporters of Partnership Alliance left the council chambers. GPA CEO Heather Simmons Jones declined to comment after the vote.

Bush said he was disappointed in the vote, believing the issues could be resolved.

“I don’t think the proposal was considered,” Bush said about Greenwood CPW’s proposal.

Stockman also attended in support of the GPA.

“Council decided what they needed to do and their decision was their decision,” Stockman said.

Greenwood County’s membership in the GPA will end on June 30.

Greenwood County’s contribution to the Greenwood Partnership Alliance made up about 35% of the anticipated $854,000 of investor income on its recently proposed budget. It is proposing a budget of $922,802 in total revenue and $922,801 in total expenses.

Part of those expenses is $529,680 budgeted for salaries and benefits for four full time and one part-time staff members according to their latest budget.

Removing Greenwood County’s $300,000 investment yearly in the GPA budget would reduce its total revenue to $622,802.

Self reducing furloughs, expanding surgical services

More Self Regional Healthcare staff members can expect to be back at work soon as the hospital system works to strike the balance between caution amid COVID-19 and offering surgical services.

The complicated decisions on when and how to return staff to work are all taking place with the backdrop of a continuing global pandemic, and Self’s staff is still working hard to keep up with the virus in the Greenwood area.

“We’re continuing our screening process, and we’re seeing about 70-100 folks a day through our drive-thru screening site,” said Dr. Matt Logan, chief medical officer at Self.

Self has tested 2,968 people since the COVID-19 pandemic started, with 132 of those being positive, 71 of which lived in Greenwood County; 2,723 were negative, and 107 tests were still pending as of Tuesday afternoon. Five Self team members tested positive out of 84 staffers tested.

People can be tested at the drive-thru testing site without a physician’s orders, they just have to call to be screened for symptoms. The screening line is available at 864-725-4200.

A recent Self-sponsored testing event in Saluda County tested 372 people, with 24 coming back positive. That’s an infection rate of about 6.5%, which Self CEO and President Jim Pfeiffer said is about twice the rate Self sees from drive-thru testing at the hospital.

Another similar testing event is coming up from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Thursday, at Johnston Elementary School in Edgefield County, at 514 Lee St., Johnston. Tests are first-come, first-served as long as testing materials last.

At the hospital this week, the staff has resumed all surgical procedures. Elective procedures were put on hold because of the pandemic and Self resumed some elective procedures on May 4, but now all surgeries are available to patients.

Still, Logan said staff members are following procedural guidelines from the American College of Surgeons, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other leading authorities in medicine. Everyone coming into the hospital has their temperatures checked and are screened for the virus, and everyone is required to wear a mask. People receiving elective surgeries must be pre-screened for COVID-19.

And while restrictions at some businesses and restaurants have been lifted, Pfeiffer said the hospital is not budging an inch on its visitation policy. Unless visiting a mother in labor or a terminal patient, visitors are asked to stay away from the hospital. No other hospital that Self officials have spoken with is lifting restrictions, and neither will Self, Pfeiffer said.

“This isn’t like Lowe’s or a restaurant,” he said. “We have seriously compromised patients here, and we can’t risk letting our guard down for a minute.”

FurloughsOn April 12, Self Regional furloughed about 650 staff members, 63% of whom volunteered to take the unpaid time away from work. It was that move, in conjunction with stimulus money, that helped the hospital system barely keep on budget.

By the end of April, the hospital’s revenues were off budget by about 37%, Pfeiffer said. Without stimulus money, that would have resulted in a $5 million loss of operational funds.

Now that more procedures are being made available again, Pfeiffer said the hospital is making moves to bring people back to work. On May 10 the April furloughs were extended, but about 100 staffers returned to work. Some team members are planned to return next week, with more than 100 team members staying on furlough until June 6.

After that, Pfeiffer said the hospital will have to play things by ear and adapt as it goes. Tracking the current month’s budget, the hospital is on pace to have a shortfall of about 25%. Any moves when it comes to staffing and bringing more people into the hospital have to be made with extreme caution, Pfeiffer said.

It’s been said before, and Pfeiffer said it again: This virus isn’t gone. There are people infected with the virus who are showing no symptoms, and those people are at a greater risk of spreading the illness to others.

Because of this, he brushed off any debate about whether people should wear masks, saying it’s essential to public health that people cover up, keep diligently washing their hands and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces.