A 2nd public comment night at OMC

More than 100 people showed up at Oconee Medical Center to heap praise not criticism on hospital leaders. Medical center executives presented their reasons for seeking to link Oconee with the Greenville Health System. And for the most part, the audience supported the plan. Medical center president Jean Ward explained that a dwindling patient load and changes in federal health care regulations have caused the hospital to operate in the red — a loss this year of more than $700,000. Over the past five years, she said, the hospital has cut more than 250 jobs.  Some in the county have feared joining up with the Greenville system would hurt the quality of local care, perhaps sending some patients to Greenville for tests and treatments. The pact, critics add, might damage the local economy, not only causing a loss of hospital-related jobs but also hurting the county’s ability to lure new businesses, which view a strong hospital as a plus when looking locations. The proposal will extend collaboration between Oconee and Greenville. The two hospitals already share some medical services. A handful of citizens have been demanding a second opinion, looking to cut costs, particularly salaries and contract guarantees to some doctors and medical groups as well as hospital executives, along with trimming other expenses. However, when it comes to a financial package worth more than $400 thousand dollars a year to Ward, the hospital president/CEO has her supportersThe two hospitals have set March 15 as the next milestone, when officials would formally agree to continue toward an alliance in June.