National attention about health care focused on the Affordable Care Act (ACA) rate increases and, toward the end of 2016, what would happen if the ACA was repealed after the next president and Congress take office. Locally, the health care buzz was about the Greenville Health System’s restructuring from a public nonprofit to a mostly private nonprofit. Some members of the Greenville County Legislative Delegation strongly objected to the change and filed a lawsuit against it. Also in the news were stories about the local and national opioid epidemic, data breaches impacting local patients and hospital expansions.
Opioid epidemic comes to Greenville
Opioid and heroin overdoses in South Carolina are nearly as deadly as state road auto accidents, impacting both youths and adults. Addicts often start with prescription opioids like oxycodone, Percocet or hydrocodone, stealing these from someone’s medicine cabinet. Once addicted, it’s a short step to heroin use, as the illegal street drug is easier to obtain than prescription opioids. The problem has escalated in the past two years. In Greenville County, 71 people died from opioid abuse in 2015. South Carolina is one of 13 states that have the highest percentage of painkiller prescriptions. A recent law allows first responders to carry and administer naloxone, an opioid antidote that can save lives when administered soon after an overdose.
The transformation of GHS
The biggest and most contentious change in Greenville’s health industry in 2016 occurred on Oct. 1 when the Greenville Health System finalized its transition from an entirely public nonprofit health system into a mostly private, nonprofit organization. GHS finalized the change soon after the Supreme Court of South Carolina declined in August to rule for or against GHS’ transition plans. The newly transformed health system continues its operations seamlessly from a patient’s perspective. But the two new boards that oversee its strategic planning and day-to-day operations no longer are required to hold public meetings. Also the Greenville County Legislative delegation has no say in who is approved for the new boards. Members of the delegation and others filed a complaint in the court of common pleas, objecting to the switch. Through mid-December 2016, the court had not made a decision on the complaint.
Bon Secours St. Francis Health System expanded its cancer treatment facilities in 2016, adding more jobs in the St. Francis Hematology Oncology Center and the Upstate Oncology Associates. BSSF also is expanding its stem cell transplant program and its participation in clinical trials.
In addition, BSSF has expanded its Adolescent and Young Adult (AYA) Activity Center for young people with cancer. The expansion was the result of an $83,500 donation from Clement’s Kindness Fund for the Children.
GHS’ new psychiatric hospital
The Greenville Health System is collaborating with Acadia Healthcare to build a new $64 million, 120-bed hospital to replace Marshall I. Pickens Hospital and its 46 beds. GHS officials say the joint venture would not have been possible without the health system’s recent reorganization into a private, nonprofit entity.
Bon Secours Health System acknowledged, in August, a huge data breach that affected about 655,000 patients nationwide, including 110,000 people in the Carolinas. A vendor working with the health system accidentally breached patients’ private information. Later, in November, the Greenville Health System said that about 2,500 cardiac-monitored patients of GHS’ Carolina Cardiology Consultants had been impacted by a data breach resulting from a former employee of Ambucor Health Solutions, a cardiac device contractor with GHS.