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Sumter gets more access to heart care with new Tuomey Hospital expansion

3 new cardiologists and a 21-room heart care center are being added to the Tuomey Hospital campus.

SUMTER COUNTY, S.C. — Tuomey Hospital is making another expansion to its services with a new cardiology center.

According to CDC data, 309 people in Sumter died of heart disease in 2020. Doctors say for many of these people delayed care and a lack of access likely contributed to their heart problems. 

Sumter doctors like Francis Roosevelt Gilliam having an option closer to home can be life-saving.

"They don't have to go out of town, so this becomes easier access for them," Dr. Gilliam said. "We become something that is not a three-hour trip to go to Columbia, get seen, then have to go back. You can now go 10 minutes down the road."

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If a person needs emergency care that Tuomey Hospital is unable to provide, the hospital says your option is an hour-long ambulance ride to PRISMA Health in Columbia, an almost two-hour drive to Charleston, or a 15-minute helicopter ride. 

Dr. Gilliam says the new cardiology center will provide everything from diagnosing issues to after-surgery care.

"We can do regular cardiac catheterizations, we can do pacemakers, defibrillators, and all of those devices. We can actually also do echocardiograms and all types of non-invasive tests," Gilliam explained.

Tuomey Hospital will have four cardiologists working in their new heart center, which has 21 exam rooms to see several patients at once.

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Although people can go to the heart center for everything from a new pacemaker to an EKG, Tuomey is still waiting on the state to grant them a Certificate of Need to be able to perform emergency angioplasty, which allows doctors to open a clogged artery. Speaker of the House, Murrell Smith attended the opening of the cardiology center and says he and other representatives in the state are working to change the Certificate of Need process.

"DHEC has to give you permission that you would be able to do that," Smith stated. "That's been an issue that we've debated over the years in the General Assembly, is the Certificate of Need and the reform. I've very optimistic this year that we are going to see reform... so that we can expand access to more rural areas."

Right now, according to PRISMA Health, South Carolina ranks sixteenth highest in the nation for heart disease and managing chronic disease. With the implementation of care closer to home, Tuomey CEP Joe DiPaolo says only time will tell.

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"We can only wait and see but certainly, my only advice to people is if you feel a tinge or a twinge and you don't know what's happening now we have a full cadre of people here to help 24/7," DiPaolo said.

Tuomey Hospital says in addition to the expansion of its cardiology department they are also looking forward to the expansion of its emergency department expansion as well. Hospital leaders say that expansion will take a little more than a year to complete.

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