Tidelands Health takes leading regional role in COVID-19 testing
Tidelands Health is taking a leading role in COVID-19 testing in Horry and Georgetown counties as part of the health system’s comprehensive response to the virus’ spread.
As of Monday, the health system had ordered 1,482 COVID-19 tests, including 892 on an outpatient basis, resulting in the identification of 62 positive cases.
“We are aggressively testing patients because it is important to both individual and community health,” said Gayle Resetar, executive vice president and chief operating officer for the health system. “People need to know if they’re infected with the virus, and our community and public health officials need testing data to make informed decisions about how to respond.”
Outpatient testing has been a central focus for Tidelands Health as the not-for-profit health system has responded to the coronavirus pandemic. Tidelands Health is testing people by appointment at tent sites outside designated physician offices in Myrtle Beach, Pawleys Island and Georgetown. Only patients with symptoms of COVID-19 are being tested, and testing is by appointment only.
Of the tests conducted by the health system since the outbreak began, more than 60 percent have taken place at physician offices.
“Outpatient testing is vitally important,” Resetar said. “We don’t want to wait to test people until they come to an emergency department for care.”
Patients who learn they are COVID-19 positive are more likely to take self-isolation guidance seriously, she said, helping to protect loved ones and co-workers from becoming ill.
Outpatient testing also limits patient volume at hospital emergency departments, which helps prevent providers from being overwhelmed, and informs public health interventions needed to slow the spread of the virus.
In addition, outpatient testing also helps protect the health system’s care team because the testing is conducted in a controlled environment outdoors. Providers are at little risk of exposure because they wear full personal protective gear, including a respirator, face shield, gown and gloves.
While there had been significant delays in processing COVID-19 test results at labs around the country, those backlogs have largely cleared. Tidelands Health is now receiving test results from external labs in three to four days, on average.
“In a pandemic, testing is one of the pillars of a public health response,” Resetar said. “At Tidelands Health, we believe it’s important to aggressively test for COVID-19 to help people who are ill and to limit the spread of the illness.”
As the region’s MUSC Health affiliate, Tidelands Health encourages residents with symptoms of COVID-19 to use the no-cost MUSC Health virtual screening tool at muschealth.org, which automatically refers patients within the region who need follow-up care to Tidelands Health for assistance.
Individuals can also call their Tidelands Health family physician to schedule an appointment. Those who don’t have a physician can call 1-866-TIDELANDS for help. People experiencing COVID-19 symptoms should call ahead before coming to a physician’s office or other care location so appropriate precautions can be taken.
In an emergency, people should always call 911.