Op-Ed: GHS is a valued community partner

Innovation, leadership outweigh a "quick fix"

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I’ve been on the board of Baptist Easley hospital now for six years. I’ve had the distinct honor of being the board chairman for the last two years. During that time, I’ve come to know and love the people of the hospital and also the people of our two parent companies: Palmetto Health and Greenville Health System (GHS).

The regional approach that GHS has taken to grow in the Upstate has had multiple benefits. The public is better served by a community-oriented and very caring health provider. Another benefit is that GHS has provided the financial and medical support infrastructure to keep both Oconee Memorial and Baptist Easley open for business and improving community health every day.

I have been amazed and very proud of the progress that I’ve seen GHS make in the last six years. The concept of maintaining healthy communities has been wholly embraced by GHS and demonstrated to be effective in various trials.

The innovation and leadership associated with GHS are amazing. From allying ourselves with Clemson University’s biomedical engineering program and nursing school to growing our medical education programs with USC in the Upstate to teach the next generation of physicians, we are now a major source of innovative, well-educated, and experienced doctors for our region and the state of South Carolina.

The list goes on and on. The Swamp Rabbit Trail would not be what it is without the support and leadership of GHS. The Cancer Society of Greenville and the new Pickens County Cancer Association would not be sustainable without support from GHS. We are truly blessed in the Upstate to have such a good corporate citizen.

I have followed the discussions of the GHS merger with Palmetto Health, and I am truly amazed that some in the legislature would have a problem with that. I do not think that the sale of GHS would benefit anyone. Of great concern is that the money from the sale is already being promised to various projects. This amounts to vote-buying in my opinion. Of course, people want “free stuff,” but I don’t think they realize that trading the high-quality health care provider we have for lower taxes and infrastructure improvements to the area doesn’t make sense.

I cannot understand why anyone in the state legislature or the county would have a problem with creating a larger regional health system for all of the people in South Carolina. How can that be bad?

Now contrast that with the idea of selling GHS to some foreign entity. Foreign — meaning either out of state or perhaps out of this country. I do not believe that a corporate owner in another state would be as interested in the health of the community as GHS has been. I can’t imagine that owner putting the kind of money and support into our community that GHS has.

The benefit of having the corporate headquarters here, the economic development opportunities, the recruiting and educating of quality medical professionals to the Upstate — also the sheer number of employees at GHS — provide huge benefits to the Greenville area and to the Upstate. I can’t imagine some distant owner caring that much about our community. I can’t imagine some distant owner not trying to cut costs to the minimum — and in doing so, cutting care quality to the minimum — because they simply aren’t here and don’t have “heart and soul” in this area. The owners of said corporation would not be as interested or care as much for our communities.

I ask that all of you think hard about this. We don’t need to trade the “goose that lays the golden egg” for a couple of quick fixes to our tax or infrastructure issues. The long-term devastating effect of losing our region’s main health care system would be a disaster. It would be a decision regretted for years to come, long after the politicians have had their say.

In closing, I urge everyone to let your elected officials know how you feel. We need to keep our quality health care provider, GHS, in Greenville. The merger with Palmetto Health will benefit the entire state. The financial details can all be worked out. God bless this great opportunity.

Tom O’Hanlan

Board Chairman, Baptist Easley Hospital

CEO, Sealevel Systems Inc.

Tom O'Hanlan headshot
Tom O’Hanlan
Board Chairman, Baptist Easley Hospital
CEO, Sealevel Systems Inc.
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