SC National Guard to assist Tidelands Health amid COVID-19 surge

Published: Sep. 3, 2021 at 10:30 AM EDT|Updated: Sep. 3, 2021 at 6:38 PM EDT
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GEORGETOWN, S.C. (WCSC) - Members of the South Carolina National Guard are set to be deployed to four medical facilities in the state amid the latest surge in COVID-19 cases.

In a statement Friday morning, Tidelands Health’s Nursing and Operations Vice President Ashley Capps said about a dozen guard members will assist in the provider’s emergency departments. They may also provide support for the health system’s monoclonal antibody clinic and temporary respiratory clinics.

The guard confirmed to Live 5 News it has received requests from Tidelands Health for the Georgetown Memorial Hospital, Waccamaw Community hospital and Murrells Inlet vaccine clinic. They also received a request from Lovelace Family Medical in Prosperity in the Midlands.

Medical officials said emergency departments are experiencing unprecedented demand amid the ongoing COVID-19 surge, and Tidelands needs a system to handle extended wait times for patients who come to the ER with non-emergent needs.

“We again welcome the skilled and dedicated members of the National Guard to work alongside our team during this latest wave of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations,” Capps said. “We are extremely grateful for their partnership and willingness to help serve our community as we experience tremendous demand in our ERs and across our health system.”

The National Guard has provided crucial support to Tidelands Health during previous COVID-19 surges, Capps said.

In the past few weeks, Tidelands Health said its two ERs have been inundated with a surge of patients with severe COVID-19 symptoms, all while continuing to care for patients with the normal array of illnesses and injuries. Total emergency departments are up 30% to 40%.

“It’s more volume than we would have ever seen this time of year,” Tidelands Health’s chief operating officer Gayle Resetar said.

Further complicating the issue, Resetar said, is a number of staff members have contracted COVID-19 or need to quarantine due to close contact with someone who has the virus. She described the situation as a “perfect storm” of unprecedented emergency department demand and staffing challenges.

Since both Tidelands Waccamaw Community Hospital and Tidelands Georgetown Memorial Hospital are operating at more than 100 percent capacity, Tidelands’ emergency departments are serving as a holding area for patients who have been admitted but cannot move to an inpatient floor until a hospital room becomes available.

At one point this week, Tidelands Health Senior Communications Strategist Dawn Bryant said the Tidelands Waccamaw emergency department was holding 22 admitted patients, including nine critical-care patients, because there were no beds available.

Personnel, stretchers and medical equipment such as crash carts have been relocated from other areas of the hospitals to support the ERs. Bryant says Tidelands Health has opened three temporary respiratory clinics to provide care for patients with non-emergency respiratory symptoms.

“As we have throughout this pandemic, our team continues to rise to the challenge and serve our patients with care and compassion,” Capps said. “But we are asking our community to help us help you. Please get vaccinated, and please wear a mask to protect your health.

Resetar said right now, they’ve been stretched to the limit for four or five weeks already, and she doesn’t see the numbers falling off in the near term.

“We’ve seen surges and efforts go six to eight weeks, and we’ve seen times where we’ve started to come down on the other side of some of the volume surges. We haven’t started seeing that yet,” she said.

The region’s lagging vaccination rate isn’t helping matters, she added.

“It’s just not slowing down yet,” she said. “We just have too many people that are unvaccinated in our service area, and they’re getting sick enough to need the ER and the hospital.”

The National Guard deployment is set to last two weeks but can be extended if necessary.

Community members who need medical care but who are not experiencing severe or life-threatening symptoms have several options to receive timely treatment, Bryant said.

Tidelands says people 12 and older who are experiencing non-emergency respiratory symptoms can receive quick, convenient care at one of three temporary Tidelands Health respiratory clinics. Tidelands asks that patients call 1-866-TIDELANDS to make an appointment. The hospital system says the clinics are open Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Tidelands Health Family Medicine is located at 1075 N. Fraser St. in Georgetown. Another location, Waccamaw Medical Park South, is located at 4367 Riverwood Drive in Murrells Inlet. Finally Tidelands has a Myrtle Beach location at Tidelands Health Medical Park at The Market Common. That is located at 2200 Crow Lane.

Tidelands says patients can seek care at Tidelands Health Family Medicine offices. Tidelands Health Pediatrics provides care for children.

Finally Tidelands Health said they want to encourage people to see their doctors virtually. As the region’s MUSC Health affiliate, Tidelands says they offer convenient access to MUSC Health Virtual Care. Individuals can get care for many common conditions online from a trusted MUSC Health provider. No appointment is needed and Tidelands says the online service is available 24/7 at their website.

“We thank our community for your patience and understanding as we work to serve you,” Capps said. “Please know our team members are giving their all every single day in incredibly challenging conditions, and your support helps sustain them.

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