Thumbs up to Carolinas Hospital System, which announced and celebrated some very big news Wednesday. The hospital has joined the Mayo Clinic Care Network. We have great health care facilities in Florence, and let’s face it: This is a competitive market. An alliance with the Mayo Clinic, which is as big a name in health care as it gets, is a huge feather in Carolinas’ cap. Darcy Craven, the chief executive officer of Carolinas Hospital System, called it a “historic day not only for the hospital but for Florence and the Pee Dee region.” That is not an overstatement. The alliance will give providers at Carolinas access to the resources of “the most respected, recognized health care system in the world: the Mayo Clinic.” The collaboration “will change the face of health care here locally in Florence.” The Mayo Clinic has three campuses, one each in Minnesota, Florida and Arizona. Those campuses are visited annually by approximately 1 million patients. But it’s a burden for patients in some parts of the nation to have to travel to the nearest Mayo Clinic. That’s why the Mayo Clinic Care Network was formed. Allowing patients to stay with their “trusted physicians and teams” has provided ‘a good solution for the vast, vast majority of patients,” said Dr. Ryan Uitti, the network’s medical director for the Southeast region. Electronic consultation is one benefit of the alliance. Roundtables of expert physicians can provide conferences and patient education materials at no additional cost to patients. “It’s truly a win-win,” said Dr. Rami Zebian, Carolinas medical Alliance pulmonary and critical care physician. Carolinas Hospital System was one of three hospitals in the Community Health Systems family that vied for an alliance with the Mayo Clinic Care Network. It’s the only one that was accepted. The network has grown to 40 member organizations around the world in the past five years.

Thumbs up to the Greater Florence Chamber of Commerce for holding an “Education Summit” on Wednesday morning at the Florence Civic Center. The speakers were Francis Marion University President Fred Carter, Florence-Darlington Technical College President Ben Dillard and Hood Temple, the 7th Congressional District representative on the state’s Commission on Higher Education. Education must be “accessible, affordable and excellent,” Temple said. Dillard spoke about his institution’s emphasis on workforce development. Carter talked passionately about the impact that FMU’s established programs such as education and business and newer programs in health sciences and engineering have made, are making and will make in the Pee Dee region and beyond. The breakfast was, shall we say, highly educational.

Thumbs up to FMU President Fred Carter for telling it like it is. At the Education Summit, he was asked what outcome he would like to see in the Abbeville vs. the State of South Carolina lawsuit that is about equitable funding in poor and rural school districts. The S.C. Supreme Court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs late in 2014, supposedly resolving a suit that was filed in 1993, but the General Assembly has yet to respond adequately to the court’s wishes. “I think everybody in this room and everybody in this state recognizes the inequity that exists in regard to education funding in South Carolina,” Carter began. “I think the great dilemma now that our legislature struggles with are the issues that all of us continue to put on the table from other perspectives. … Yeah, I want equity in K through 12 education, and I want higher education well funded. And I want roads I can drive on. And I essentially want Medicaid expanded across the Pee Dee region to help more sick people be treated. You lay all those things out and you’ve got to begin a process of prioritization, and I think that’s what they’re doing. And many of you are not going to like this, and I’m sorry about that, but it also means that all of us in this state are going to have to pay more taxes and more user fees to make this state more livable. I’m sorry, but that’s a fact. Our tax structures in this state are at a level that are not excessive, but our quality of life is getting to a level in some areas where it’s not livable. Somehow we have to reconcile the two, and the way to reconcile it is to look at raising those user fees and raising those taxes, and especially for people like those of us sitting in this room, and it’s not enough that we say, ‘You’re right.’ What we ought to be doing is going out there and championing the effort to do those kind of things. That’s how we resolve those issues. Now I will tell you this, and I’ll only say this one time: The funding for K through 12 in my mind trumps the funding for higher education any day of the week.” An increase in the state’s low gas tax would be a good place to start. That not only would provide a steady stream of much-needed money to improve decaying roads, but it would free up money in the general fund that could go toward education. Money won’t fix all of the problems, but rural, poor districts need more money to attract better teachers who can make a difference.

Thumbs up, thumbs down is a regular feature of the Morning News and appears each Saturday on our Opinion page. We seek nominations for both good and bad deeds from our readers. Send nominations to us by email at Be sure use the word “thumb” in the subject and include a contact number. Thumbs can also be mailed to us c/o The Morning News, 310 S. Dargan St., Florence, S.C., 29506.

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