BARNWELL COUNTY, SC (WFXG) - After more than 60 years, Southern Palmetto Hospital, formerly known as Barnwell County Hospital, will be shutting down.
Residents and members of the staff met at the hospital's entrance at noon on Thursday to pray for the health of the patients and to say their goodbyes to co-workers.
Reid Boylston said 45 years in Barnwell can make for a lot of memories.
"I've made my living here; I've had two children born here," said Boylston.
With the only local hospital servicing Barnwell's 22,000 residents closing its doors Thursday, he expects to see a ripple effect across the area.
"This is a real blow and it'll show economically. We're struggling to get industry in here; this is just another nail in the coffin," said Boylston.
Southern Palmetto Hospital officials released a statement on why the privately-owned facility has called it quits, leaving more than 140 residents without jobs.
The main cause is the bottom line-a $2.5 million deficit thanks to a decrease in services and patients not making good on their bills.
The next closest hospital for residents of Barnwell is 48 minutes away in Aiken. A lot of residents said that is a scary reality, because when it comes to an emergency, every minute can make a difference between life and death.
Boylston said, "What if you had a heart attack? What if you got cut real bad?"
Keith Richardson, pastor of First Baptist church in Barnwell, said, "It's a significant impact on this community."
Richardson has walked through these doors several times in the past few years.
He said not having a neighborhood hospital will directly affect him as a patient. But, his main reason for showing up was to be a rock for those in the community who just lost their jobs.
"We're not just going to say 'bless you' and see them off. We're going to do everything we can to make sure they're okay and their families are okay," said Richardson.