Phone, internet back up at Family Health Centers

A power outage caused damage to the phone and internet systems at one of the state’s largest community health centers two weeks ago.

Repairs have now been made to the systems damaged when a nearby transformer blew out, according to Family Health Centers Inc. Executive Director Leon Brunson Sr.

As of approximately 4 a.m. Thursday morning, “everything is back up working,” he said.

“We had a consultant here ever since that transformer went out. Last night they finished up what they had to do. It took them a long period of time because we didn’t have the skill set in house to fix the damaged system,” Brunson said.

A transformer located behind FHC’s main office in Orangeburg blew out on Oct. 30 and caused a power outage at the facility, along with other area businesses.

In a statement issued Nov. 11, the center said the blade server that houses the center’s phone system malfunctioned. The server parts were ordered and arrived at the center.

Brunson said he was concerned about individuals not being able to get medicine during the period of technical difficulties and did not sit idly by in making provisions for care.

“I had to make sure they had the opportunity to at least make a request for medicine. That’s why we put it on our webpage letting them know,” Brunson said.

Individuals could access the facility’s website at myfhc.org and, if they needed to schedule an appointment, could contact the office via email at [email protected]myfhc.org or call 803-531-6916.

Brunson said work was also done to assist patients with prescription refills, noting that every area of the center was affected by the power outage, including the facility’s telemedicine capabilities.

“From what I know about it, each patient that needed a refill, we refilled it. We had their email, and we were able to fill it. We could send them an email back letting them know it is ready and to come and pick it up,” he said.

At one point, only one phone was operating at the center.

“The patient could call on that one number, and we could get the pharmacy to fill a prescription. They could make contact to us. That contact would let us know that Leon Brunson (or whoever) is requesting a refill,” Brunson said.

A notice which was up as late as noon Thursday advised individuals that the outage had resulted in phone and internet difficulties at not just the main Orangeburg site, but all other satellite sites.

Brunson said all of the facility’s computer systems were impacted by the blown transformer.

“Everything. When that transformer blew, it blew everything out,” he said.

Brunson said, “The whole period we saw patients on the schedule. We made sure we saw patients because we can’t survive without revenue. We build our schedule for 30 days, and we still allow them to walk in. We have a walk-in section for pediatrics and adult medicine.”

The center is operating under normal business hours from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. at its Orangeburg site and from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at its satellite sites in St. Matthews, Denmark, Neeses, Vance, Holly Hill and St. George.

“Everything is up and running,” Brunson said.

He noted that delays with confirming the results of the center’s massive COVID-19 testing efforts are also being addressed with its private provider.

“What they have agreed to do is give us a two- to three-day turnaround time,” Brunson said.

“The other piece of it is we’re trying to put in our own lab. We won’t have to worry about turn-around time,” he said.

The ultimate goal is to acquire the rapid COVID-19 testing kits with results available in 15 to 30 minutes.

“We were testing a lot of people. … We had three sites running with almost 200 at each site, almost 600 people a day. That’s a challenge,” he said.

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