RICHLAND COUNTY, S.C. (WIS) - Governor Henry McMaster ordered a mandatory evacuation of many coastal areas on Sunday, impacting 175 hospitals, nursing homes, and assisted living facilities.
Over the last two days, these facilities have been evacuating their patients to various places across South Carolina including some facilities in the Midlands. The Heritage assisted living and nursing home in White Rock is hosting 107 patients and around 70 staff members from their sister facility near Isle of Palms.
“They’ve been making us feel welcome,” James Gilbert, an evacuee of Franke at Seaside, said. “I wouldn’t say happy that we are here but certainly welcome and, to make us feel like we are part of a much bigger involvement than, you know, old folks that are looking for a place to go.”
Staffers here told me that this is the third year in a row that they’ve had to evacuate and that the evacuation went smooth.
“It’s not stressful for us. It may be a little more stressful for the residents because they are worried and anxious,” Denise Dickinsen, the Lutheran Homes Development Vice President, said. “We know we’ve got this because we have planned and prepared.”
DHEC officials said that every nursing home has an emergency evacuation plan in place for transporting and sheltering patients. This plan includes agreements with other facilities around the state.
“I think certainly the most difficult part is preparing the residents for transport,” said Louis Eubank, the DHEC Healthcare Planning and Construction Bureau chief, “but then also making sure the families and loved ones know where they are going.”
Officials said, as of this morning, more than 60 of the 175 in-patient facilities have evacuated. The Heritage is part of Lutheran Homes, which has five locations across South Carolina. The vice president of development said the majority of their residents choose to stay with the facility for the evacuation.
“When someone wants to go home with their families, it’s about communication,” Dickinsen said. “Letting us know that they are going to take their mom and their dad with them for the evacuation. We have a certain time that everyone has to be picked up by so that we know that everyone that is leaving the campus will be gone by this time.”
Eubank said it’s a collaborative effort between EMD, the Department of Public Safety, and the Department of Transportation for transporting the medical evacuees quickly and safely.
She said with the evacuation routes and lane reversals they were able to get all of the patients to this facility quickly.
“We really appreciate the lanes are reversed because that gives us clear passage,” Dickinsen said. “For those of us that are on medical evacuation route, we can get to our destination and get to taking care of our residents as soon as possible.”
The evacuation included 13 hospitals, 25 nursing homes, and 92 assisted living facilities.
“I think there’s always a silver lining when people are so gracious to you and it’s obvious they are doing their best possible,” Gilbert said.
Nine hospitals are allowed to shelter in place, while Hilton Head Hospital, Encompass Health Rehab Hospital, Palmetto Lowcountry Behavioral Center of Bluffton, and Vibra Hospital of Charleston are closed.