November 11 is Veteran’s Day, a holiday to recognize and thank the men and women who have served our country.
We would like to thank all of our DHEC employees who served their country and are now continuing their service with our state. Our staff share a passion for service, and we are proud to have many employee veterans from all branches and backgrounds who have chosen to continue their careers of service with us.
A Flickr album featuring photos of our veterans is available here.
In observance of the 43rd National Nursing Assistants’ Week 2020, DHEC would like to recognize and thank all of South Carolina’s nursing assistants for their hard work and dedication, especially during COVID-19. During the week of June 18-24, we celebrate nursing assistants and all they do for the community. The compassionate care nursing assistants demonstrate is essential to the well-being of our loved ones in nursing homes, hospitals, and other settings.
What Are Nursing Assistants?
Nursing assistants, or certified nurse aide (CNAs), ) are crucial for the successful operations of nursing homes and other long-term care settings; they provide nearly 80-90% of the direct patient care. Nursing assistants also work in hospitals, as well as in correctional institutions, hospice programs, and home care. Working under a licensed nurse’s supervision, a nursing assistant will provide basic care to patients or residents, often involving extensive daily contact. In order to become certified as a nursing assistant or nurse aide, one must successfully complete a state-approved training program and examination, , and be added to the state registry, which in South Carolina is maintained through the South Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS).
Duties of a nursing assistant:
Taking vital signs of patients
Listening to patients’ health concerns, record information, report information to nurses
Helping the patients dress
Bathing and cleaning patients
Serving meals to patients and helping them eat
It would come as no surprise that the extent of contact nursing assistants have with patients result in friendships; there is no limit to their commitment to the happiness and well-being of their patients.
“During National Nursing Assistants’ Week, we should be mindful that what has historically been a difficult job, has become a true exercise in selflessness,” said Matt McCollum, Administrator for Ridgeway Manor Healthcare Center. “As we navigate through the changes that COVID-19 has brought upon our industry, our CNAs have been put in a position that they’ve not been tasked with before.”
During COVID-19, nursing assistants have shown great flexibility to the changes needed to keep patients and residents safe. Not only have South Carolina’s nursing assistants adapted well and continued to perform at high standards, but they have also taken on new challenges as routines and activities have come to a halt. Nursing assistants have creatively managed to keep residents active and in touch with loved ones and friends, while still following safe distancing measures and precautions.
“These ladies and gentlemen have always done what is often a thankless job with compassion and care in their hearts, but now they are literally putting themselves in a position of potential jeopardy to provide that care to the most vulnerable Americans among us,” states McCollum. “They are truly the unsung heroes of this pandemic and no amount of thanks will ever be enough to express how blessed we all are to have them as our allies during these trying times.”
Join DHEC in thanking a CNA during the week of June 18-24. To all of South Carolina’s nursing assistants, we thank you and appreciate everything you have done for our loved ones. You are truly heroes!
January 9 is National Law Enforcement Appreciation Day, and DHEC wants to take a moment to honor all of the employees that serve in this role.
“Protecting our citizens’ health and the environment from those who will intentionally do harm is the primary mission of our DHEC Law Enforcement programs,” said Michael Tempel, DHEC Chief of Office of Law Enforcement for Environmental Affairs and Law Enforcement Coordinating Committee Chairman. “Our officers and support staff work tirelessly to make sure our citizens are safe and violators are held accountable. I appreciate all their efforts and am proud to serve with them all.”
The agency has three law enforcement units:
Bureau of Drug Control
Office of Criminal Investigation
Shellfish Sanitation Program
Bureau of Drug Control (BDC)
DHEC’s Bureau of Drug Control (BDC) serves a regulatory role as well as provides enforcement of the South Carolina Controlled Substances Act. Our BDC inspections are pharmacists who have undergone additional training through the S.C. Criminal Justice Academy to become state law enforcement officers.
They conduct onsite inspections and audits of pharmacies, hospitals and practitioners to make sure they are properly recording, storing and handling controlled substances. These important members of our Health Regulation team make recommendations and offer assistance to help these entities follow proper procedures in handling these medications.
BDC inspectors respond to complaints and concerns reported to DHEC that sometimes indicate criminal activity or misuse of controlled substances. When warranted, they also make arrests.
In 2019, DHEC’s BDC had approximately 28,000 controlled substance registrants, and the drug inspectors typically conduct 750 to 850 annual inspections. DHEC’s inspectors work closely with local law enforcement, the DEA, and the South Carolina Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation in their ongoing fight against the misuse of controlled substances.
Office of Criminal Investigation (OCI)
The three-person Office of Criminal Investigation (OCI) team is responsible for investigating grossly negligent, willful and knowing violations of state and federal environmental criminal laws.
Investigations generally involve criminal violations of:
the Hazardous Waste Management Act,
Pollution Control Act,
Solid Waste Policy and Management Act,
State Safe Drinking Water Act,
Infectious Waste Management Act
and other general and related crimes.
Frequently, other crimes are uncovered during the investigation of environmental crimes, such as complex conspiracies, fraudulent schemes, and falsification of documents. OCI works closely with state and federal prosecutors to bring those responsible for all of these crimes to justice.
Shellfish Sanitation Program
The Shellfish Sanitation Program is a health and environmental protection program with three major responsibilities:
classification of the waters used for the growing and cultivating of molluscan shellfish,
certification and inspection of facilities that process and
distribution of shellfish and the patrol of those areas that are determined to be unsuitable for the harvesting of shellfish.
The 10-officer team primarily operates in the state’s coastal counties but conducts operations as needed throughout the state.
The DHEC Shellfish Sanitation officers also work closely with counterparts in the S.C. Department of Natural Resources. Much of their work is performed outside of regular office hours on the coastal waters of the state.
Whether on the drug enforcement or members of our environmental affairs team, the officers that make up these three DHEC units Embrace Service and showLeadership and Collaboration. Thank you again for helping to promote and protect the safety and health of our communities.
HPV is Cancer Prevention Champion, an award created by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Association of American Cancer Institutes (AACI), and the American Cancer Society (ACS), recognizes clinicians, clinics, practices, groups and health systems that offer exceptional HPV vaccination among adolescents in their community. This award honors one Champion in each state as well as Champions from the eight United States territories and District of Columbia. Tandem Health of Sumter is South Carolina’s winner for 2019.
Tandem Health is a Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) and accredited patient-centered medical home (PCMH) that provides comprehensive, personalized healthcare services regardless of the patient’s ability to pay. In January 2019, Tandem Health joined the South Carolina Primary Health Care Association and American Cancer Society as a member system of the South Carolina HPV Cancer Free Learning Collaborative. Tandem has served as a peer mentor for the additional seven FQHC member systems, sharing examples of the implemented evidence-based strategies and quality improvement processes. Because of these efforts, Tandem Health has gone from a 39% HPV vaccine series completion rate among adolescent patients at January 1, 2019 to a 78% completion rate by the end of August 2019.
Tandem Health is dedicated to improving the health of our boys and girls in South Carolina. DHEC is proud and honored to congratulate Tandem Health on this well-deserved award.
Receiving the HPV vaccine is important because it protects against cancers caused by human papillomavirus (HPV) infection. HPV is a very common virus; nearly 79 million people are currently infected in the United States. Every year in the United States, nearly 35,000 women and men are estimated to be diagnosed with a cancer caused by HPV infection. HPV vaccination could prevent more than 90% of these cancers—more than 32,000 cases every year—from ever developing. Both boys and girls should get two doses of the HPV vaccine series when they are 11 or 12 years old. The HPV vaccine series can be started as early as age 9. HPV vaccine is one of 4 vaccines teens should get when they are age 11 or 12. All teens also need a Tdap (whooping cough) booster, meningitis vaccine, and a yearly flu vaccine.
Newborn screening is a state public health service intended to identify infants who may be at an increased risk of certain disorders. Many consider newborn screening the most successful public health program in the United States. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) listed newborn screening as one of the 10 great public health achievements of the last decade.*
The term “newborn screening” refers to the collective group of conditions screened at birth including dried blood spot, hearing, and Critical Congenital Heart Disease (CCHD). Our focus for this post is on Newborn Screening dried blood spots.
Every infant born in South Carolina is screened for unexpected medical conditions by collecting a blood sample, or blood spot specimen, from the infant’s heel 24 to 48 hours after birth. Five blood spots are obtained from approximately 57,000 infants born in South Carolina every year. Once dried and packaged, those blood spots are sent to the South Carolina Public Health Laboratory, where they are assessed for proper testing criteria also known as a satisfactory specimen collection.
If the laboratory deems the collection as unsatisfactory, those specimens are rejected, and the lab is unable to test for more than 50 disorders that are identifiable during the newborn period. Many of these disorders are time-critical or life-threatening. A repeat specimen is then requested, and a pediatrician, hospital, or health department is tasked with recollecting the specimen. This process can lead to a critical time delay of identifying an infant with a time critical disorder, timely diagnosis and treatment. Getting it right the first time, every time is important for all babies born in South Carolina.
In June 2019, the Newborn Screening Program, along with partners from the South Carolina Hospital Association (SCHA), traveled to McLeod Health Clarendon in Manning, SC. This recent visit was to recognize the hospital staff for achieving 100% satisfactory blood spot specimens in 2018. When the nurse manager, Debi, received a call from DHEC to acknowledge her facility’s accomplishment, she was pleasantly surprised. She revealed that her staff began to champion their newborn screening blood spot collection after attending the DHEC “First Time, Every Time” dried blood spot collection training workshop.
The processes implemented after the training guided them along a journey for success. Here is what Debi had to say: “I could not be prouder of my diligent and conscientious Women’s Services team at McLeod Health Clarendon; they truly exemplify our mission of providing excellence in healthcare! We would also like to thank the SC DHEC newborn screening team for making such a positive impact in the health care of all South Carolina newborns!” -Debi Love-Ballard, R.N., Director of McLeod Health Clarendon’s Women and Infant Services.
McLeod Health Clarendon was the only South Carolina hospital to accomplish the goal of 100% satisfactory bloodspot specimen collection in 2018. Approximately 400 infants received their results in a timely manner without experiencing a repeat collection process.
Congratulations McLeod Health Clarendon. Their impact on the babies born in their community is a true representation of DHEC’s vision of Healthy People, Healthy Communities in South Carolina.