Healthcare Quality celebrates clients and partners in October (Residents’ Rights Month, Pharmacists’ Month, Sudden Cardiac Arrest Month, National Fire Prevention Week)

October is a month with many important health care observances. DHEC’s Healthcare Quality would like to spotlight several groups for this month.

Residents’ Rights Month

National Consumer Voice

DHEC honors residents living in long-term care facilities across South Carolina, including our 193 nursing homes and 499 assisted living facilities. This year’s theme is “Connection Matters,” which emphasizes how connections – to family, friends, and the community – are essential components of good health and wellbeing.

“DHEC works with facilities to ensure that the regulations in place are adhered to and residents are protected. It is critical during this time that facilities and DHEC work together to ensure that residents have every right afforded to them,” said Angie Smith, Interim Bureau Director of Facilities Oversight in Healthcare Quality.

As SC continues to respond to COVID-19, the pandemic has only further accentuated how important connections are for residents at these facilities.

“While connection with others is always important, it has taken center stage during the COVID pandemic as families, loved ones, and advocates find alternative ways to connect and communicate with residents to help maintain their health and quality of life,” said Dale Watson, State Long Term Care Ombudsman in the South Carolina Department on Aging (SCDOA).

On October 9, 2020, DHEC released Updated Visitation Guidelines that gave licensed nursing homes and assisted living facilities the opportunity to work towards scheduling both indoor and outdoor social visits for residents, as long as both the facility and its visitors met the required criteria to ensure the health and safety of everyone involved.

“We are helping to coordinate the Communicative Technology Grant provided by CMS and facility visitation plans for residents to stay in touch with their loved ones, and helping to provide accessible healthcare through the addition of hospital tents, alternate care sites, testing locations, and more,” said Kristen Juarez-Kollu, Community Facilities Field Manager in the Bureau of Facilities Oversight.

“Answering any questions or concerns of facilities and residents is incredibly important to us. We conduct investigations if any complaints are submitted to the Department regarding residents’ rights,” said JoMonica Taylor, Interim Section Manager of Residential Facilities Oversight.

Residents’ rights include, but are not limited, to:

· Their Right to Be Fully Informed

· Their Right to Complain

· Their Right to Participate in Their Own Care

· Their Right to Privacy and Confidentiality

· Their Rights During Transfers and Discharges

· Their Right to Dignity, Respect, and Freedom

· Their Right to Visits

· Their Right to Make Independent Choices

For more information regarding Residents’ Rights, visit

American Pharmacists’ Month

October Is American Pharmacists Month | NACDS

The full month of October is American Pharmacists Month, and National Pharmacy Week is observed October 18th-24th.  

The DHEC Office of Pharmacy is responsible for the operational, professional and clinical activities associated with the provision of pharmaceuticals through the agency’s public health departments to DHEC patients. DHEC region pharmacy staff members provide a level of pharmaceutical care that supports the agency mission and meets the needs of patients.  

As COVID-19 has changed almost every aspect of healthcare, pharmacies are facing an increased demand for delivery services, a need for online marketing and order placement options and a widened scope of practice to include more than the daily routine of dispensing medications.  

Director of DHEC’s Office of Pharmacy, Caroline Sojourner, said the pandemic signaled a need for pharmacies to quickly adjust traditional service provision processes to achieve and maintain access to prescription drugs in conjunction with minimizing the risk of exposures for pharmacy staff and patients.  

In addition to dispensing prescriptions and administering vaccines to patients, pharmacists are helping to fill gaps in patient care through testing for COVID-19 and the highly anticipated administration of the forthcoming COVID-19 vaccine.  

Did You Know?  In addition to the Office of Pharmacy, DHEC also has a Bureau of Drug Control. 

Drug Control’s pharmacists, known as Drug Control Inspectors, are also commissioned state law enforcement officers. The role of a Drug Control Inspector is comprised of two main focuses – a regulatory component, and a law enforcement component.  The regulatory aspect consists of monitoring controlled-substance activity in South Carolina, which involves conducting regulatory inspections, audits and answering questions from healthcare providers and the public regarding these matters. The law enforcement aspect of the job involves the investigation of crimes involving controlled substance diversion in South Carolina.  

A couple inspectors shared their favorite parts of their jobs: 

“Often regulations and statutes can be technical, and I am grateful for the opportunity to clarify and assist our registrants in navigating any questions that may arise. In this way, the role of an inspector allows me to foster an open dialogue with all of South Carolina’s healthcare providers – and allows us all to work toward the common goal of protecting public safety.”  

“In this role I have had the opportunity to meet and work with a wide collection of people including South Carolina Board of Pharmacy representatives, the federal Drug Enforcement Agency personnel, executive leadership for healthcare groups and even USC College of Pharmacy students. These have been fantastic opportunities for me as a Drug Control Inspector to impact and promote the future of public safety in South Carolina.”  

DHEC is celebrating and thanking South Carolina’s pharmacists for their dedication to keeping the community healthy and safe. 

Sudden Cardiac Arrest Month

 Sudden Cardiac Arrest Awareness Month sheds light on a severe event in which the heart suddenly and unexpectedly stops beating, ceasing blood flow to the brain and other vital organs. Healthcare Quality’s Systems of Emergent Care Division wants to remind the everyone of the critical differences between a Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) and a heart attack, debunk some myths and offer valuable tips on preventative and life-saving measures. 

Myth: Sudden cardiac arrests and heart attacks are the same thing. 

Truth: “SCA and a heart attack are NOT the same thing, and this needs to be stressed,” said John Thivierge, STEMI, Stroke, and Sepsis Coordinator. “SCA is caused by electrical disturbances in the heart while heart attacks are caused by blocked arteries.”  

With SCAs, there is less time to provide an emergency response. SCAs only have an 8% survival rate, and victims rarely suspect that they are ever capable of having one. 

Myth: I only hear about cardiac arrests happening to men. Women are safe. 

Truth: “SCA can absolutely happen to females,” said Rich Wisniewski, Director of Systems of Emergent Care. “Heart issues in general for women can be difficult to diagnose because they may have no symptoms at all or have symptoms that present in a way other than the ones that are typically known, like chest pain and shortness of breath.” 

While SCAs occur more in men, women should take SCAs and heart health very seriously because no one is immune. 

 Myth: There are warning sides for sudden cardiac arrests to look out for. 

Truth: “SCA can happen without warning in teens and adults, unfortunately,” John said.  

Sudden cardiac arrest signs are immediate and drastic, and can include:  

  • Sudden collapse  
  • No pulse  
  • No breathing 
  • Loss of consciousness  

Sometimes other signs occur before sudden cardiac arrest. These might include: 

  • Chest discomfort 
  • Shortness of breath 
  • Weakness 
  • Palpitations 

But sudden cardiac arrest often occurs with no warning. ​​​​​​​

Myth: Trying to help someone suffering from a sudden cardiac arrest is useless. 

Truth: With fast, appropriate medical care, survival is possible.

Family members or bystanders of victims who suffer from SCA must call 911 and begin cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR),” John said. “Additionally, if the family or bystanders have access to an automated external defibrillator (AED), then they should immediately apply the device to the victim and follow the prompts as provided by the machine.”

Myth: We’re in a pandemic! It’s too dangerous to bring someone to a hospital. 

Truth: “Regardless of flu season, COVID-19 or any other concern, it is essential to seek care immediately for SCAs or risk certain death,” Rich said.

SCAs require quick and efficient medical attention by physicians in order to save someone’s life. Call a 911 dispatcher, send for an ambulance and follow the infection control and prevention protocols that the EMS workers and the hospital instruct you to take. 

Myth: There’s nothing I can do to improve my chances of surviving a SCA. 

Truth: Not true! Do not underestimate the importance of heart health. While SCAs are not caused by lifestyle choices, having a healthy lifestyle can improve your chances of and ease recovery.  

“People should eat a heart-healthy diet, manage their weight and control their blood pressure and diabetes, if possible,” John said. “Do not smoke. People should also get 6-8 hours of sleep a night and exercise regularly, too.”  

“Do not diet,” Rich said. “Diets are temporary fads and healthy living should be a long-term lifestyle change. Monitoring blood pressure, regular check-ups and taking a CPR course are all ways we can not only help ourselves, but also to be sure we can help others if needed.” 


✓ If you’re currently having an onset of SCA symptoms, immediately call 911 or emergency medical services. 

✓ When the heart stops, the lack of oxygenated blood can cause death or permanent brain damage in minutes. Time is critical. Act fast! Do not wait or hesitate. 

✓ If you see someone who’s unconscious and not breathing normally, remember to call 911 and then perform CPR. Quickly check the breathing. If the person isn’t breathing normally, then begin CPR. Push hard and fast on the person’s chest at the rate of 100 to 120 compressions per minute. If you’ve been trained in CPR, then check the person’s airway and deliver rescue breaths after every 30 compressions. If you haven’t been trained, then just continue chest compressions. Allow the chest to rise completely between compressions. Keep doing this until a portable defibrillator is available or emergency workers arrive. 

✓ Use a portable defibrillator if one is available. It will give you step-by-step voice instructions. Continue chest compressions while the defibrillator is charging. Deliver one shock if advised by the device and then immediately resume CPR, starting with chest compressions – or give chest compressions only – for about two minutes. Using the defibrillator, make sure to check the person’s heart rhythm. If necessary, the defibrillator will give another shock. Repeat this cycle until the person recovers consciousness or emergency workers take over. 

More information and tips regarding CSAs is available at the Sudden Cardiac Arrest Foundation. 

National Fire Prevention Week

National Fire Prevention Week 2020 was October 4th-10th. This year’s theme was “Serve Up Fire Safety in the Kitchen,” which focused on fire prevention while cooking.  

DHEC’s Division of Fire and Life Safety conducts periodic inspections to ensure that licensed facilities operate in a safe manner, complying with all applicable DHEC Regulations, Fire Codes and National Fire Protection Association Standards. 

With the holidays coming up fast, DHEC encourages South Carolina communities to practice safe cooking and fire prevention now. A few safe cooking tips:  

  • Stay in the kitchen while cooking on the stove,  
  • Check on items that are cooking frequently, and 
  • Keep loose clothing away from heat sources. 

Todd McAlhany, director of the division, had a few other tips. 

“DHEC’s Division of Fire and Life Safety would also like to remind everyone to have a plan to escape,” he said. “Practice your plan with your family and have a designated meeting area once you are out. Once you are out, do not go back.  

“As we approach cooler weather be aware of the dangers of portable space heaters and fireplaces. Use only holiday decorations that have been approved by nationally recognized testing laboratories (e.g. Underwriters Laboratory or Factory Mutual) and check decorative lighting for worn or frayed wires.” 

For more information, please visit    

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