(NewsNation) — One South Carolina hospital is converting an empty wing into a facility to treat prisoners.
Like many rural hospitals, South Carolina Medical Center has been at risk of going out of business, facing a lack of staff and patients. So the hospital is trying a novel solution.
In a partnership with the South Carolina Department of Corrections, the hospital group will be converting an empty wing into a secure unit to treat inmates.
Previously, the state would send inmates to various locations to receive medical care that prison infirmaries couldn’t provide.
“Offenders, even while incarcerated, are entitled to the same medical care as all the other citizens of the United States,” said Shane Fausey, president of the union representing the Federal Bureau of Prisons.
In many cases, that means prisoners must be taken to doctor’s offices and hospitals, Fausey explained to NewsNation, for care that exceeds what prison infirmaries are equipped to provide.
That makes community partnerships critical.
“The taxpayer can’t afford to staff all of our prisons at the same level of care that our hospitals and medical centers have,” Fausey said.
Corrections officers have security protocols in place when they need to transport prisoners. In South Carolina, the Department of Corrections is spending $3 million to secure the dedicated wing at South Carolina Medical Center. That includes heavy-duty locks, barred windows and security cameras.
It’s a lot of money, but Fausey said it still represents a lot of savings when compared to what it would cost to build a dedicated facility just to treat prisoners.
It also makes the process more secure, he said.
“It’s a secured facility, you have the technology in place, and the physical infrastructure to maintain that security. So it’s much easier to keep them there while they’re afforded their care versus transporting them back and forth,” Fausey said.
The restricted access unit will provide 36 beds for prisoners, and officials say it will also create 60 new jobs for nurses and officers.