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County officials investigating hospital finances

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KERSHAW COUNTY, SC (WIS) -

A Kershaw County hospital system wants a $1 million bailout from Kershaw County taxpayers.

Kershaw Health told the County Council they're running a $900,000 deficit this year and since 2008, the EMS service is $4.2 million in the hole.  Tuesday night, Kershaw Health CEO Donnie Weeks asked the council to pay off the $883,000 deficit but council said no.

"It's an essential service, but we don't see that as a service that should be funded by Kershaw Health," said Kershaw Health CEO Donnie Weeks. "It's not funded by Kershaw Health anywhere else."

Weeks said cuts in Medicaid and Medicare and additional EMS stations are the reasons the hospital can't balance the EMS budget.  He said Kershaw County Council should pay down the EMS deficit and it shouldn't come out of the hospital's budget.

"We couldn't find another county in South Carolina where the hospital carried the deficit for ambulances," said Weeks. "We're very pleased to be able to do it for a long, long time but because of financial pressures now, it's very difficult to do that going forward."

"We didn't create the deficit," said County Councilman Jimmy Jones. "We didn't create the choices in spending the hospital's made and we haven't had any answers to why they're in the position they're in and they didn't even send us the audit of the ambulance service."

Jones was one of four members who voted against bailing out Kershaw Health's EMS service.  Jones said he launched an investigation into the hospital's spending and he's already found what he sees as six-figure waste.

When asked if he found any evidence that warrants a deeper look into how the hospital is spending money, Jones replied, "Absolutely. And we've asked those questions. We just haven't gotten the answers."

One point on the EMS service: despite the financial trouble, Kershaw Health said you won't see any changes in ambulance service.

Along with county council, WIS also asked the hospital for more information.  Jody Barr filed a Freedom of Information Act request Thursday asking to look at employee contracts, salary totals bonuses and benefits.  WIS will update this investigation as soon as we get those public records.

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