Hospital’s response to COVID-19 continues to change since pandemic struck S.C.

VIDEO: Hospital’s response to COVID-19 continues to change since pandemic struck S.C.

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Staff at Roper St. Francis Healthcare say a lot has changed in their response to COVID-19 since the virus was first discovered in South Carolina.

During a meeting with the Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce on Friday, two top staff members with the hospital gave an update on what they’ve experienced.

Dr. Chris McLain, the chief physician officer at Roper St. Francis Healthcare and the COVID-19 physician lead, was joined by Chief Strategy Officer and COVID-19 incident command lead Craig Self.

“The initial spike of the disease that we saw really was manageable, and the numbers at the time felt tremendous because everything was new,” McLain said about the virus in the spring. “But of course, hindsight, with the volumes we’ve been seeing later, of course, we were just getting warmed up.”

Self says the hospital is working to address staffing shortages, which is a problem in many hospitals around the country.

“We have a lot of work going on in that pipeline to cross-train nurses and working to bring additional nursing to our system,” he added.

The hospital system is also experiencing glove and gown shortages because those products are mostly made overseas. However, they are not short on ventilators, which was a concern at the beginning of the pandemic.

“Initially we expected that about 25 percent of patients would end up on a ventilator, but what we’ve been seeing lately is 10-11 percent,” Dr. McLain said.

He attributes this to changes in treatment from the beginning of the pandemic until now.

“The way in which we treat folks and try to keep them off the ventilator has been vital in the overall morbidity and the length of stays in hospitals,” he added.

The good news is the spike in cases South Carolina experienced after Memorial Day may be leveling out.

“We’ve started to see a trend of stability,” Dr. McLain added. “In the last 24-48 hours, we have seen a slight decrease of in-patients we’re treating. I’m not ready to call that a trend yet but we’re moving in that direction which is encouraging to me.”

He said he’s often asked about school this fall and admitted it’s a tough decision.

“If schools start back, the incidence of disease is most likely going to go up. We shouldn’t sugar coat that,” he said while also acknowledging the importance of face-to-face education for students.

He said the biggest concern right now is not that children will get too sick from the virus, but that they will spread it to more vulnerable family members.

“It’s not an easy situation,” McLain added.

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