New infectious disease unit at MUSC grew from another health crisis

Updated: Dec. 2, 2020 at 9:55 PM EST
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - A project born out of one health crisis arrived at MUSC Health just in time for the arrival of another pandemic.

When the Ebola crisis hit the U.S. in 2014, MUSC Health realized the vulnerability medical centers could face when dealing with a deadly virus.

After years of planning, MUSC opened South Carolina’s only state-designated Ebola Treatment Center in July 2020. The high-risk infectious disease unit is designed to prevent cross-contamination when treating patients with these illnesses.

The new unit was built in the Clinical Science Building, next to the existing Emergency Room at MUSC. Everything in the unit is operated hands-free. The unit is designed to house two isolation patients and contains five separate HVAC systems. Color-coded floors help staff identify the different areas of the unit and what PPE should be used.

The unit also includes space for three clinicians, storage for PPE, a chemical shower/decontamination room, and classroom space for up to 14 students.

The facility itself will be valuable for future treatments, but creating the protocols helped the hospital adapt quickly when the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

“A lot of that was able to be extrapolated very quickly to a lot of the testing sites and treatment sites within the hospital and surrounding health system,” the unit’s Medical Director, Dr. Dustin LeBlanc said. “Really it was the knowledge base that was so important.”

“Construction was completed just a couple of months before that, just as COVID was really hitting and it really made us feel confident that we were going to be able to be prepared for what was coming down the pike,” the unit’s operations manager Kim Bailey said.

The high-risk team will include 45 MUSC Health care members trained quarterly.

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