Author Archives: laurajcaskey

South Carolina Honors EMS Professionals on the Front Line of COVID-19

DHEC and SC EMS Association are proud to recognize our state’s emergency medical services (EMS) professionals during National EMS Week, which is May 17-20.

DHEC announced a new initiative that allows South Carolina emergency medical technicians (EMTs) to test patients for COVID-19. Following a recent pilot in April with Richland County EMS Community Paramedics, DHEC developed a training program to provide paramedics with guidance on how to collect COVID-19 specimens.

Due to the success of the pilot program, DHEC is rolling out the training to EMTs and paramedics across the state. As of today, the agency has trained more than 200 EMTs and paramedics in COVID-19 specimen collection. 

“DHEC would like to thank EMS workers for the sacrifices they make every day, especially during COVID-19,” said Rob Wronski, DHEC Bureau Director of Healthcare Professionals. “South Carolina’s EMS workers have done an absolutely incredible job of assisting patients suffering from the virus while carefully preventing the spread of COVID-19.”

In addition to responding to medical emergency calls day and night, South Carolina’s EMS professionals are a critical component of the state’s COVID-19 response. They work collaboratively with DHEC and other partners across the state to support community testing programs, universal testing in nursing homes, drive-through testing sites, and the transportation of patients.

“For many years, the South Carolina EMS Association has made purposeful movements to build cohesion of all Emergency Medical Service Professionals in our great state,” said William Tatum, the President Elect of the South Carolina EMS Association. “No matter the service, patch, or name on your ambulance, we are ONE for EMS in South Carolina. This wouldn’t have been possible without the strong relationship and mutual respect that is shared between DHEC and the members of the Association.”

South Carolina has 268 EMS agencies and 11,272 emergency personnel that includes first responders, EMTs, and paramedics. An EMS system involves a highly coordinated response for emergency medical care that relies on teamwork and camaraderie between multiple people and agencies.

“As COVID-19 emerged, the bonds established provided an information pathway and support system that continues to be beneficial to providers statewide. The future of EMS is bright in South Carolina because of the professionals that provide care to the sick and injured daily. Your hard work and dedication do not go unnoticed,” Tatum said.

During the COIVD-19 response, DHEC continues to work closely with the South Carolina EMS Association and EMS community partners by:

  • Creating 12 First Responder testing sites across all four regions of the state to allow for the rapid testing of SC First Responders suspected of having COVID-19
  • Assisting EMS workers with alternate transport destinations to allow EMTs from EMS Compact States to freely move in and out of South Carolina during support of interstate operations
  • Issuing protocols for conducting Point-of-Care Testing (POCT) for COVID-19 suspected patients that includes the use of tele-medicine
  • Expanding Scope of Practice to EMTs to collect specimens/support test sites across the state.
  • Approving the use of EMTs as temporary nurse aides at nursing homes.

More information regarding National EMS Week can be found here. For the latest information about COVID-19, click here. 

EMS workers help promote DHEC’s core value of Embracing Servicing and Service and Accessibility. 

DHEC Celebrates National Hospital Week

DHEC recognizes the American Hospital Association’s annual National Hospital Week by celebrating our hospitals and the professionals that work in them. South Carolina currently has 105 licensed hospitals staffed with nurses, doctors, practitioners and a variety of staff members that provide medical care, services, and compassion to patients.  

As hospitals continue to respond to the COVID-19 state of emergency, its skilled staff and factions of healthcare professionals are working diligently to prevent the spread of the virus while simultaneously treating up to the most severe COVID-19 patients.

“This pandemic is unprecedented and beyond what anyone could have imagined,“ said Charlene Bell, Interim Director of the Hospital Division in Healthcare Quality. “The way that hospitals from even the most rural regions of the state have promptly and pre-emptively communicated with local health departments and DHEC since the start of the outbreak in order to make sure that they have sufficient hospital beds, personal protective equipment (PPE), supplies, adequate staff, and infection control measures in place is outstanding.“

DHEC is also working closely with hospitals to contain and screen COVID-19 by creating alternate care sites (ACS), which include the following:

  • COVID-19 specimen collection sites
  • Mobile and popup testing clinics
  • Extension of a hospital’s emergency department (e.g., triage and screening tents)
  • COVID-19 isolation sites
  • Limited COVID-19 medical care isolation sites
  • Low-acuity alternate care sites

 “DHEC is working with hospitals in inspecting and opening up construction spaces so select ACS can be approved,” Charlene saidThe ACS are very important because they relieve hospitals from having too many patients in a common area at a time with a mix of COVID-19 positive and negative patients, and now COVID-19 patients can be allocated to the proper areas of the hospital without having to pass through unnecessary channels.Hospitals can separate these individuals and test, screen, and care for them in a far more timely and efficient matter.”

DHEC has currently approved 51 alternate care sites. The agency is also carefully monitoring the intensive care units of all hospitals daily.

“Frontline healthcare workers in South Carolina’s hospitals are the true heroes of COVID-19,” said Thornton Kirby, President and CEO of the South Carolina Hospital Association (SCHA).

The SCHA has is thanking healthcare workers throughout the state by deploying a “Healthcare Heroes Truck” to visit hospitals and share messages of appreciation.

DHEC thanks hospitals and the hundreds of staff at each facility for their sacrifices, skills, and life-saving work. COVID-19 has infiltrated every hospital and healthcare system in the state, and our hospitals continue to prove how incredibly efficient and compassionate they are by prioritizing every patient who enters their doors and positively affecting more lives than we can ever know.

DHEC’s mission to improve the quality of life for all South Carolinians by protecting and promoting the health of the public is evident in our hospitals and the healthcare professionals who dedicate themselves to the most vulnerable in our communities.

The agency’s partnership with SCHA and celebrating National Hospital Week is a way we Promote Teamwork as well as Leadership and Collaboration. ​​​​​​​

DHEC Honors Nurses: #NursesWeek

DHEC would like to recognize our agency’s superb nursing staff during National Nurses Week, which is May 6-12. Together, we celebrate our public health nurses for embracing service, inspiring innovation, promoting teamwork and exhibiting excellence in nursing practice. Our nursing staff provide excellent patient care and are an integral component of all our public health initiatives. 

We also honor all of our nurses across the nation and state for their ongoing commitment to protecting the health and safety of our communities.

Helping to Lead the Fight Against the Spread of COVID-19

Our nurses have risen to the challenge during the COVID-19 pandemic – working tirelessly to ensure the public health needs of South Carolinians are met.

Highlights of nursing activities include:

  • Triage consultation for entire state.
  • Nursing and IT partnered to utilize innovative methods to move triage to a Sharepoint platform.
  • Additional nursing staff hired and trained to assist with triage and contact investigations.
  • Nursing staff provided expert training to fellow nurse coworkers to enable them to assume duties beyond their current positions.
  • New nursing teams have been established to support our Epi staff including call centers, strike teams, and data entry teams, contact investigation teams, and weekend epi/lab teams.
  • Nurses have sewn cloth masks for co-workers, volunteered for additional duties, and have been willing to assume supervisory and training duties. 

All of these activities and more are being done while maintaining program duties, continuing to see patients in the clinics, and checking on patients to assure their needs are met during this historic time.

Bringing Home the Gold

The highest award a South Carolina nurse can receive is the Palmetto Gold Award. Only 100 nurses are selected per year. 

It is an honor to announce that 14 of our DHEC nurses have been selected to receive the award this year at the Palmetto Gold Gala scheduled for September 26, 2020. These nurses display leadership and excellence in nursing practice. 

Recipients include:

Amy PainterDebra RayEmily WayFrances HallMarnie Johnson
Lynn FosterCrystal KeithPat BarrettSheryl GardnerLindsay Odell
Shaniqua AlstonDebra CainElizabeth ReynoldsJennifer Donehue

Please joining us in thanking our nurses for the work they do throughout the year to help promote our shared vision of healthy people living in healthy communities.

DHEC Observes World TB Day, Recognizes Efforts of Those Who Work to End the Disease in SC

This World TB Day, DHEC joins local, state, national and global efforts to control and eliminate tuberculosis, as well as to celebrate the work people all over the world have done to address tuberculosis.

World TB Day is officially observed on March 24 of each year to commemorate the date in 1882 when Dr. Robert Koch announced his discovery of Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the bacteria that causes TB.

Tuberculosis is a disease of the lungs that can be spread by coughing, sneezing or speaking. Signs and symptoms of TB disease include feelings of sickness or weakness, weight loss, fever and night sweats. The signs and symptoms of TB disease of the lungs also include coughing, chest pain and the coughing up of blood. The signs and symptoms of TB disease in other parts of the body depend on the area affected.

The 2020 World TB Day theme is ”It’s Time”. DHEC will take the time to recognize the amazing work of those in our TB division across the state. Our statewide theme is ”It’s time for us to speak out, step in, and stand up to end TB.”

In observance of the day, DHEC will celebrate with all TB staff on Friday, March 20. The two-hour celebration will include lectures by our state TB Clinician, Dr. Frank Ervin and Lowcountry’s TB Clinician, Dr. Susan Dorman. Awards will be given out in various categories, and staff will be recognized for their great achievements of continued reduction in our state case rate.

Visit the DHEC website for more information on our World TB Day activities.

DHEC and Grand Strand partners launch CheckMyBeach.com

The S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) has been working with various partners along the Grand Strand to develop an easy and informative way to provide beach swimming safety updates to beachgoers. This collaboration has led to the development of CheckMyBeach.com, a website for looking up helpful information like ocean water quality, swimming advisories, rip currents and more.

CheckMyBeach.com offers information about DHEC’s Beach Monitoring Program, which includes the weekly monitoring of fecal indicator bacteria, specifically Enterococcus, along South Carolina’s coast. If high levels of these bacteria are detected, which usually happens after heavy rains wash contaminants into the ocean, a short-term swimming advisory is issued for that particular spot – but the entire beach is not affected. CheckMyBeach.com links to DHEC’s information on current ocean water sampling results and swimming advisories, and it also provides localized news and updates about Grand Strand area beaches.

DHEC and its partners are excited for the new ways CheckMyBeach.com will keep residents and visitors updated about their favorite beaches. We’re working to spread the word about this new resource in the Grand Strand for the summer of 2020 (Phase I) and looking to expand that effort with new partners to promote CheckMyBeach.com for all of South Carolina’s beaches the following summer (Phase II). In addition to promotion through local media, hospitality and tourism groups, social media and signage at beach access point points, CheckMyBeach.com is the focus of four community “roadshows” in March to help inform the public of this great new information tool. Please see the details below – we hope you can attend!

NOTE: The event on Wednesday, March 18, is available only via YouTube, available following the event at https://www.youtube.com/user/SCDHEC. All future previously-scheduled CheckMyBeach.com roadshow events have been postponed.

Wednesday, March 4
5 p.m.-7 p.m.
North Myrtle Beach City Hall (1018 Second Ave S., North Myrtle Beach)

Wednesday, March 11
5 p.m.-7 p.m.
Myrtle Beach Train Depot (851 Broadway St., Myrtle Beach)

Wednesday, March 18
Virtual CheckMyBeach.com Presentation
12:30 p.m.-2:30 p.m.
Video available on YouTube following the event

Monday, March 30 The final CheckMyBeach.com event has been postponed.
5 p.m.-7 p.m.
Surfside Beach Council Chambers (1115 U.S. Highway 17, North Surfside Beach)