SC National Guard to provide staffing support as region’s hospitals respond to COVID-19 surge

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The Tidelands Health Newsroom

Published on July 21, 2020

SC National Guard to provide staffing support as region’s hospitals respond to COVID-19 surge

Clinical personnel with the South Carolina National Guard will provide essential staffing support for five hospitals along the Grand Strand as COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations continue to surge across the region.

National Guard personnel join Tidelands Health team members for a quick meeting before testing starts for the day Friday, July 10, at a community drive-through testing event in Georgetown.Approximately 40 medics with the South Carolina National Guard will arrive in the region Wednesday to provide clinical support at Conway Medical Center, McLeod Loris, McLeod Seacoast, Tidelands Georgetown Memorial Hospital and Tidelands Waccamaw Community Hospital. The area’s hospitals worked collaboratively through the South Carolina Hospital Association, Georgetown County Emergency Management and Horry County Emergency Management to request and receive Guard support.

“Over the past month, COVID-19 hospitalizations have increased significantly in Georgetown and Horry counties,” said Thornton Kirby, SCHA president and CEO. “Staffing support from the National Guard will allow the region’s hospitals, which are operating at or near capacity, to expand their ability to care for patients in need.”

COVID-19 cases are increasing rapidly in the region, with more than 4,000 new cases diagnosed in Georgetown and Horry counties since July 1. All of the region’s hospitals are at or near capacity in their emergency departments, intensive care units and inpatient care units.

National Guard personnel“The staff here at CMC and other health care organizations throughout the region have performed tremendously well in unprecedented circumstances,” said Bret Barr, president and CEO of Conway Medical Center. “The specialized care required for COVID-19 patients in isolation places a strain on the entire staffing system. Plus, as this virus spreads throughout our communities, it has inevitably begun to directly infect front line health care workers who sacrifice so much for those around them.

“We are grateful to the National Guard for coming to the aid of our communities yet again and ensuring our region's health care needs are met.”

Added Monica Vehige, administrator of McLeod Loris Seacoast Hospital, “McLeod Health, like most health systems across the nation, continues to be challenged by this ever-evolving pandemic. We are grateful to partner with the National Guard and receive their generous overture of staffing support to prepare for more predicted surges of COVID-19.

“Our teams have been steadfast in their care of a coastal community, which is greatly impacted by the transmission of this illness. In keeping with our mission of both service and stewardship, supporting our staff with more hands in this work ensures our focus on the best outcomes for patients and our people. We are extremely thankful for cooperation and responsiveness to this effort by the National Guard, the South Carolina Hospital Association and all of the hospitals and their health care teams.”

This is not the first time National Guard personnel have provided vital support for the region’s hospitals during an emergency. The Guard has responded both before and after natural disasters in recent years, including flooding and hurricanes.

Most recently, Guard members have begun working with Tidelands Health and the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control to help staff large-scale COVID-19 testing events in the region. The next free testing event will be held Friday at 10 a.m. at Coastal Carolina University, and Guard members will be on hand to assist.

Widespread community testing is a key strategy to help slow the spread of the highly contagious virus.

“We are profoundly grateful for the National Guard’s help, but we need our community’s help, too,” said Bruce Bailey, president and CEO of Tidelands Health. “This is not a hoax. People are sick and dying in our region. Wear a mask, avoid large gatherings, observe social distancing and practice good hand hygiene. Your hospitals need your support right now as we all work together to save lives.”

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Tidelands Health is the region’s largest health care provider, serving the Carolinas at four hospitals and more than 60 outpatient locations. More than 2,500 employee, physician and volunteer partners are working side by side with our communities to transform the health of our region – promoting wellness, preventing illness, encouraging recovery and restoring health.