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Lt. Gov. McConnell visits KershawHealth

Posted: November 16, 2012 4:54 p.m.
Updated: November 19, 2012 5:00 a.m.
Michael Ulmer/C-I

Lt. Gov. Glenn McConnell spoke with patients and hospital administrators during his trip to the Karesh Wing at KershawHealth. He is currently visiting facilities across the state as part of his “Face of Aging” tour.

 

South Carolina Lt. Gov. Glenn McConnell toured the hallways of KershawHealth’s Karesh Long Term Care Wing as part of his “Face of Aging” tour Tuesday. Since September, McConnell has traveled the state, visiting area nursing homes, assisted living facilities and senior centers in order to access services and gather suggestions from health care providers, caregivers, and community leaders.

After touring KershawHealth, he said he was impressed with the quality of the hospital and appreciated the opportunity to receive feedback and interact with staff and patients. 

“It’s clean. The staff is smiling. The people that are here are smiling. That’s what we want to see,” McConnell said.

Visiting patient’s rooms and common spaces, he was greeted warmly, shaking hands, giving hugs, and telling jokes.  

“You need to tell us the secret,” he said with a laugh to one patient, noting her longevity.

McConnell, former president pro tem of the S.C. Senate, was elevated to lieutenant governor in March after the resignation of former Lt. Gov. Ken Ard. As lieutenant governor, he is tasked with two main responsibilities, presiding over the senate and overseeing the state’s Office of Aging.

“We’re going from place to place seeing how people are cared for and how people are adjusting,” McConnell said of the tour. “We’re also seeing what we can do to assist in any way.” 

Upon taking office this spring, he said he immediately sought the advice of Tony Kester, the Office of Aging’s director. 

“When I came into the lieutenant governor’s office … I had Mr. Kester come in and I asked him ‘what have I gotten into here?’ When he started telling me about the 8,000 people on the waiting list and that the program had been cut 48 percent … I decided I could do one of two things: just kind of care take of the office or get in here and make a difference,” McConnell said.

He chose to do the later, explaining that he wanted to “roll up his selves and get into it.”

McConnell quickly realized he couldn’t find answers to issues facing senior citizens simply by staying at the State House in Columbia. So, he decided to branch out.

“I don’t understand how substantive change can be made without discussing these issues face-to-face,” he said.

Noting his role as the state’s chief advocate for senior citizens, McConnell said the tour has provided opportunities to “interact with communities across the state, hear ideas and recommendations, and address any questions that concerned citizens may have.”

The state’s senior citizen population, according to McConnell, is projected to double in volume during the next 20 years from 900,000 to 2 million. Accordingly, he said, a strategic plan needs to be implemented to accommodate such growth.

“I’m trying to give this a face and give it a story in order to convince lawmakers that we can’t continue on the road we’re on. We have to make changes. We have to network with the private sector, the churches, the non-profits, and service clubs,” he said.

McConnell, who also held a public forum Tuesday evening at the Robert Mills Courthouse, said one of his top concerns is to make sure regulations are crafted using common sense, noting some areas are over regulated and some are under regulated. 

“We’re collecting different ideas. How can a facility get licensed without a kitchen or a refrigerator for instance? Then we see another facility where they’re having to send carpet samples in before they can fix a carpet,” McConnell said. “We’re trying to see how we can bring some solutions to the table and how we can bring in some options.”

Karesh Long Term Care Administrator Jeanne Hanley described the visit as going “very well,” but noted she didn’t have any particular expectations beforehand.

“I wanted him to listen to some of the concerns I have about long term care and I think he did that. I didn’t really have any expectations coming in. I just said we would do business as usual,” Hanley said. “A lot of the things he mentioned will help, especially getting people together, more coordination of benefits and services among the community.

 

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