South Carolina hospital fills empty wing with prisoners to help avoid closure

Chester (S.C.) Medical Center is filling an empty wing of its hospital with 36 inmates as a measure to help stave off closure, The Herald reported Nov. 28.

The wing was outfitted with $3.3 million in security equipment to meet prison compliance standards, including 60 cameras, fences, barred windows and heavy-duty locks. Sixty new jobs will be created by adding inmates to the wing, and taxes will pay for the inmates' care.

Chester Medical faced uncertainty before it was taken over by the Charleston-based Medical University of South Carolina in 2019, and the center hopes that this move will help the hospital avoid the closures that have plagued other rural hospitals. 

"Communities like Chester are under great, great pressure to close their hospitals," MUSC CEO Patrick Cawley, MD, told The Herald. "It's hard to maintain the hospital, but this will prevent that from happening or make it much, much, much less likely."

Addressing community safety concerns, Chester County Sheriff Max Dorsey told The Herald that law enforcement has a "comprehensive safety plan in place."

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