BAMBERG — Palmetto Care Connections, Southeastern Housing and Community Development and Clemson Rural Health partnered to host a Telehealth Kick-Off Community Event at the Bamberg Villas housing development at 40 Hawk Court in Bamberg on May 19 from noon to 4 p.m.

The event included telehealth demonstrations provided by PCC, health screenings provided by Clemson Rural Health, health education, digital literacy education, distribution of Food Share boxes, exhibits by local health care providers and community resources, DJ, free food, treats for kids and gift card drawings.

“Palmetto Care Connections has installed telehealth equipment in the Bamberg Villas office so that their residents and surrounding neighborhoods can access their health care providers virtually using telehealth,” PCC Chief Executive Officer Kathy Schwarting said. “It’s kind of like a modern version of the old days when doctors would make house calls.

“I believe this is the first collaboration of its kind in the state and the first time that a telehealth access site has been established in an affordable housing development in South Carolina,” Schwarting said.

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Schwarting added, “We want to help people connect to their existing health care providers as much as possible, but if their provider doesn’t offer telehealth or if they don’t have a primary care provider, Clemson Rural Health has agreed to provide virtual care.”

Schwarting said that the cost of a telehealth consult is similar to an in-person doctor’s office visit, and a patient’s health insurance company will be billed for telehealth care.

Clemson University professor and Director of Clemson Rural Health Dr. Ron Gimbel said, “Clemson Rural Health is thrilled to be a part of increasing access to health care at Bamberg Villas for residents and neighbors. The integration of patient-centered care for underserved populations with innovative solutions makes this an ideal partnership to fulfill our mission to promote prevention and healthy behaviors.”

Southeastern Housing and Community Development Executive Director Robert Thomas said, “We are a nonprofit organization that fosters self-sufficiency and community development by providing housing, social and economic opportunities for individuals and families. By engaging a holistic approach to community transformation, we create possibilities for lasting change. We believe that telehealth can make a positive impact on the health of our communities.”

Thomas said that initially telehealth services will be available at the Bamberg Villas office on Mondays and Wednesdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. He said that plans call for offering more telehealth opportunities in the future.

S.C. Rep. Justin Bamberg attended the event.

“This Telehealth Kick-Off has been very positive, informative and it is very needed. People need to know what their options are – especially in rural areas like Bamberg. This was very well received by members of the community. Thank you, Palmetto Care Connections, Southeastern Housing and Community Development and Clemson Rural Health for collaborating to bring telehealth to Bamberg Villas. Telehealth is the future for rural South Carolina,” he said.

Bamberg Villa resident Tynesha Garrick said, “Telehealth is a great way to see your doctor. My baby had a liver transplant in 2020 and she has to go to the doctor in Charleston. With telehealth, we won’t have to travel so far for all her appointments.”

Her friend Lapaicha Banks agreed.

“I have to walk a long way to get to my doctor’s office from here. This will be good for me too.”

Exhibitors included Absolute Total Care; Bamberg County Department of Social Services; Bamberg Family Practice; Bamberg Job Corps; Bamberg Legal; Clemson Rural Health; Dominion Energy; Ehrhardt Pharmacy; Family Health Centers; Family Solutions; Financial Resource Center; FoodShare Bamberg; Hope Health; Humana; Low Country Health Care System; Palmetto Care Connections; Regional Medical Center; Saltcatcher Farms; Save the Children; SC Housing Authority #3; SC Thrive; Select Health; Southeastern Housing and Community Development; and Tri-County Commission on Alcohol and Drug Abuse.

Established in 2010, PCC is a non-profit organization that provides technology, broadband, and telehealth support services to health care providers in rural and underserved areas in S.C. PCC co-chairs the South Carolina Telehealth Alliance, along with the Medical University of South Carolina, serving as an advocate for rural providers and partnering with organizations to improve health care access and delivery for all South Carolinians. PCC’s Digital Inclusion Program provides a digital device, digital literacy training and assistance with obtaining low-cost internet service for residents of rural and underserved S.C. communities. $1 for the first 26 weeks

PCC Chief Executive Officer Kathy Schwarting received South Carolina’s 2021 Community Star award presented by the National Organization of State Offices of Rural Health for her leadership as a champion for rural health care and broadband access. The National Cooperative of Health Networks Association named Palmetto Care Connections as the 2021 Outstanding Health Network of the Year.

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