Darlington County free clinic one of several offering services during coronavirus pandemic

Pee Dee

DARLINGTON, SC (WBTW) – Free clinics across south carolina are providing necessary healthcare to people without insurance during the coronavirus pandemic.

One of those is the Free Medical Clinic of Darlington County. It has provided care to county residents without insurance, Medicare or Medicaid for 20 years.

The clinic survives on grants, church group donations and volunteering medical professionals in an area lacking healthcare options.

“We’ve got amazing specialists in our area through McLeod (Health), MUSC and Carolina Pines Regional Medical Center,” said Stephen Edwards, who’s the clinic’s executive director. “The volume is not there.”

With more than 200 patients, the clinic on Grove Street and the satellite location in Hartsville are usually busy, but because of the coronvirus, the offices are quieter. Patients are prescreened on the phone, while only one or two appointments happen at a time. Anyone coming into the office gets a temperature check.

Edwards says clinics like this one are important for the overall health of rural areas, especially during the pandemic.

“Most of our patients do already suffer from a chronic disease like COPD, diabetes or high blood pressure,” Edwards said.

Here are the case rates per 100,000 people in the South Carolina counties in our region, according to the state Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC):

  • Darlington County – 127.59
  • Florence County – 127.27
  • Marlboro County – 122.52
  • Williamsburg County – 88.91
  • Chesterfield County – 81.05
  • Dillon County – 75.46
  • Marion County – 71.76
  • Georgetown County – 55.84
  • Horry County – 53.66

Here are the rates of counties in our area for people under 65 who don’t have health insurance, according to estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau:

  • Robeson County (NC) – 18.5%
  • Horry County – 17.2%
  • Dillon County – 14.7%
  • Scotland County (NC) – 14.5%
  • Chesterfield County – 14.2%
  • Georgetown County – 13.7%
  • Marion County – 13.7%
  • Marlboro County – 13.0%
  • Darlington County – 12.5%
  • Florence County – 12.3%
  • Williamsburg County – 12.1%

The U.S. Census Bureau also estimates 12.7% of North and South Carolinians under 65 aren’t insured.

Edwards says most of the clinic’s patients haven’t had COVID-19 symptoms. Any who do are referred to a testing site.

While the virus is a main concern, Edwards is looking to help anyone who doesn’t have insurance or lost it, especially if they’ve become unemployed due to the pandemic.

“We want them to know that access to quality healthcare and prescriptions, at free or affordable rates, is available through this network of free clinics,” he said.

That network is called the South Carolina Free Clinic Association. There are other free clinics in Dillon, Florence, Georgetown, Horry and Marion counties.

To learn more, including where the closest free clinic is to you, visit scfreeclinics.org.

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