SCDHEC (South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control) is responsible for more than 6,000 public health workers, 46 county health departments, and an annual operating budget of $300 million. SC DHEC governs all aspects of public health for South Carolina from hospital licensure to environmental permitting and disease treatment and prevention.
After last year’s Covid 19 shutdowns by Governor McMaster (on recommendations by SCDHEC), many Horry County residents came to believe the agency is too large, has too much power, and little oversight.
In the City of Myrtle Beach alone, the entire city closed until May 15th last Spring. Hotel business was down 42% last year as a result of closures, regulations, and concerns. State business closures ran in the billions. Many restaurants, small businesses and bars required to operate at 50% capacity closed their doors permanently.
Today a new bill, sponsored by Representative Richie Yow and North Myrtle Beach Representative William Bailey, will work break up the bureaucracy in order to hold SCDHEC more accountable.
The intentions of the bill are to:
- Divide SCDHEC into 2 different and separate entities
- A Health Agency
- An Environmental Agency
- Eliminate the SCDHEC BOARD. Current accountability is weak. The Board Director for the 7th District happens to be Myrtle Beach Hotel Manager Jim Creel Jr. Mr. Creel is an exceptional person, but his expertise in the areas of Health and Environmental Control can certainly be questioned. Issues around the expertise of many of the board members have been raised ongoing.
- Make each entity a stand alone agency accountable to the Governor (or perhaps the General Assembly).
The most ideal approach would hopefully be to make the agency entirely accountable to the Governor. Many believe the S.C. General Assembly is already too powerful in the State of S.C.
Said Representative William Bailey, “We need to plan in advance for the future now. We better be preparing for the next virus, because history shows there is always a next virus coming. It is simply a matter of when.”
Most S.C. residents believe SCDHEC was clearly unprepared for Covid 19, despite a $300 million annual budget.
The bill is headed to the Judiciary, where Bailey serves.
As of this publication, SCDHEC has no board president and no permanent director.
The agency controls the lives of every Horry County school child, every Horry County business, every Horry County beach, and every Horry County health concern.