Behind the scenes | Tidelands Health’s commitment to community COVID-19 testing
It’s just over 24 hours until the next Tidelands Health community COVID-19 testing event, and supplies for the massive undertaking are being positioned.
More than 3,000 registration bags have been loaded and taken to the testing site at Myrtle Beach Pelicans Stadium. Tents that will provide crucial shade in the July heat are being set up. The 100-plus Tidelands Health team members who will staff the free drive-through event are receiving work assignments for testing day.
After organizing eight successful free community testing events, the team at Tidelands Health has the logistics of putting on the enormous events down to a science.
“There was never a question of, ‘Can we do this?’ We just came together with our state and local partners and did it. We had to,” said Gayle Resetar, chief operating officer of Tidelands Health. “Community testing is a crucial component of our overall strategy to slow the spread of COVID-19 by identifying people who are positive and don’t know it.
“With testing, individuals who learn they have COVID-19 can take the proper precautions to avoid spreading the virus to others.”
When the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control set out in late May to test 2 percent of the state’s population, Tidelands Health – already experienced with symptomatic testing tents at Tidelands Health Family Medicine locations – stepped up to partner with the agency on the large-scale testing effort. DHEC supplies the testing kits and processes the tests, while Tidelands Health provides manpower and manages logistics at the testing sites. More than 10,000 people across the region have been tested during eight testing events over the past six weeks.
The Tidelands Health team members working at the testing events – easily identifiable by their matching “Safe in Our Care” T-shirts – represent a range of departments across the health system, including medical personnel from non-hospital locations and support professionals from human resources, community health resources, facilities management and more.
Medical personnel in personal protective equipment perform the COVID-19 tests, while other workers distribute packets of information, help with registration, shuttle supplies and support traffic control.
While dozens of team members man the community testing events, other personnel remain hard at work at Tidelands Health physician offices and hospitals to care for patients who need medical care.
“Our team is simultaneously meeting different needs of our community members at different locations as we battle COVID-19 with every resource we have,” Resetar said.
The South Carolina National Guard Medical Task Force – COVID-19 Mission is also pitching in to help. At the request of Tidelands Health, Guard personnel supported the health system’s July 10 testing event in Georgetown and will continue to work at the testing events every Friday through July. The next testing event is Friday, July 17, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. (or while supplies last) at Myrtle Beach Pelicans Stadium, 1251 21st Avenue North. Up to 3,000 people will be tested – making the event the largest to date.
Partnerships make the free testing events possible. Local law enforcement professionals help with traffic control. Emergency management from Horry and Georgetown counties assist in planning and offer support. The Myrtle Beach Pelicans, Coastal Carolina University and other locations have offered up their parking lots as testing sites.
At the testing event planned for Friday, more than a half dozen emergency medical services personnel coordinated through DHEC’s Division of Emergency Medical Services will be on hand to offer support, including professionals from Adams Life Link Ambulance, MedTrust Medical Transport, South Star Ambulance and the Hanahan Fire Department.
“We are so grateful for our partners who help make these testing events happen,” Resetar said. “They understand the importance of large-scale community testing as we work to slow the spread of the virus in our region.”
Community testing events are scheduled every remaining Friday in July:
- Friday, July 17, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. (or while supplies last), Myrtle Beach Pelicans Stadium, 1251 21st Avenue North, Myrtle Beach
- Friday, July 24, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. (or while supplies last), Coastal Carolina University, Conway
- Saturday, Aug. 1, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. (or while supplies last), Myrtle Beach Pelicans Stadium, 1251 21st Avenue North, Myrtle Beach
For more information about community testing, go to tidelandshealth.org/testing.