Category Archives: Uncategorized

DHEC Recognizes National Ambulatory Surgery Center Month

During the month of August, DHEC would like to recognize the 68 Ambulatory Surgery Centers across the state for National Ambulatory Surgery Center Month.  As COVID-19 has introduced new challenges to our healthcare system and patients, these facilities and their staff have shown great flexibility and commitment to providing solutions. 

The agency’s Healthcare Quality provides state and federal oversight of surgery centers. Ambulatory surgery centers must be licensed and can also be certified. 

Ambulatory surgery, also known as outpatient surgery, does not require an overnight hospital stay. Ambulatory Surgery Centers (ASCs), sometimes referred to as Ambulatory Surgical Facilities, specialize in this type of care and keep hospitals uncrowded and available for more invasive procedures and longer recovery times.  

ASCs also provide flexibility and a solution to scheduling issues and long wait times for what are considered common surgeries. Procedures occurring in these facilities cost significantly less when compared to hospitals, which saves the patient, insurance companies, and employers money.  

COVID-19 response 

In response to the coronavirus outbreak, three of South Carolina’s ASCs have converted into hospitals, while others have closed because of the restrictions on elective surgeries. These conversions help hospital capacity, assist with backlogs of procedures, and expand resources.  

An ASC must meet the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ (CMS) Conditions of Participation when converting to a hospital and, while operating as a hospital, it will temporarily no longer operate as an ASC. DHEC is proud of South Carolina’s ASCs and all they have done in order to comply with federal and state standards and waivers.  

The three ASCs that have converted to hospitals during the COVID pandemic are the Surgery Center at Edgewater in Fort Mill, Charleston ENT & Allergy, and Center for Colon & Digestive Diseases in Aiken.  

“ASCs provide high quality surgical care that is safe and cost-effective,” said Amanda Atkinson, Administrator of the Surgery Center at Edgewater. “They have a reduced risk of infection and patients have the convenience of receiving care in a smaller and more intimate setting.” 

Responding to COVID-19 at present, the facility is required to test all patients prior to their surgical procedure, adding extra steps to their pre-operation process. Additional staff were brought in to assist with the testing, but supply costs have risen for the facility.  

Many local hospitals have suspended elective surgeries to focus on providing care to COVID-19 cases, creating a backlog of procedures and patients on standby. By converting to a hospital, the ASC has been able to work on the backlog of surgeries waiting to be performed, improving the patient’s quality of life, and in many cases allowing them to return to work or normal daily activities.  

In addition to the extra duties and safety precautions within the facility, staff have also been dedicating time to testing the public.  

“Staff who are affiliated with MUSC have been staffing COVID 19 testing sites since the beginning,” Atkinson said. “Many of our staff continue doing so to ensure that we are doing our part to help with this pandemic. They have all been willing to work jobs outside their normal work duties as nurses and surgical technicians to help the greater good. These healthcare professionals have selflessly and courageously continued to provide excellent care to our patients and our community.” 

DHEC thanks all of our ASCs for their continued commitment to Promoting Teamwork and Service and Accessibility. Later this month, we will publish a second part in this Dashboard series to highlight our work with another ASC and how our staff is helping to protect patient care during this time.  

DHEC recognizes National #DamSafety Awareness Day

Sunday, May 31st is National #DamSafety Awareness Day. This day serves to encourage responsibility for dam safety, while promoting the benefits dams offer to communities. DHEC’s Dam Safety Program and their dedicated work on tools and initiatives help dam owners and the state’s dam safety program handle significant rainfall and other events that have the potential to impact dams.

DHEC’s Dam Safety Program has undergone a rebirth since October 2015’s historic floods.  Through the investments from the State Legislature, the Dam Safety Program has been able to add staff and improve its capabilities, including expanding education and outreach for dam owners. The Dam Safety team includes six Regional Dam Safety Engineers, as well as staff and engineers in the Bureau of Water, to work on permitting, inspections and increase interactions with dam owners.

Working with Dam Owners

Working with dam owners is one of the most important aspects of dam safety. When an issue arises at a dam that could lead to failure, one of the most critical tasks for the owner is to lower the water level. One tool commonly used to lower water levels is a temporary siphon. The size and number of siphons required depends on the size of the reservoir and target water level. DHEC Dam Safety has developed a video to help dam owners through installation.

Telecommuting

DHEC Dam Safety has continued (relatively) routine operations while teleworking. Each Thursday morning, program staff from across the state connect together on Teams to discuss the development of webinars, tackling a challenging aspect of a permit review, or prepping for hurricane season. 

Hurricane Season

As Hurricane Season approaches, summer thunderstorms in South Carolina can sit over a drainage basin for an extended period of time and drop 6-8” of rain in a matter of hours. When such an event is forecast or has occurred, dam owners should:

  • Evaluate the water level in the pond/lake and determine if water levels can be safely lowered to make room for incoming flows.
  • Coordinate with dam owners and/ or property owners downstream.
  • Routinely clear debris from spillways.
  • Review your Emergency Action Plan.
  • Keep alert. As the storm passes, watch for rising waters.
  • Report any immediate safety concerns to the DHEC Dam Safety Program’s 24/7 line at 803-898- 1939.

Interns

For over 10 years, DHEC’s Dam Safety Program has brought on interns to assist with development of Emergency Action Plans, data management, and mapping. Interns have been hired full-time to start careers with the Dam Safety Program here at DHEC and other have gone to work in the private sector at companies such as Trane and Dominion Energy.

Upcoming Webinars

DHEC Dam Safety has partnered with FEMA and Argonne National Laboratory on a series of webinars for dam owners, with a focus on the unique challenges faced by those dams owned by HOAs. Two webinars have been completed and the recordings posted to DHEC’s YouTube page. Additional presentations are scheduled for June 2 and July 7.

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.