Category Archives: Uncategorized

DHEC recognizes Child Passenger Safety Week, Sept. 20-26

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 46% of all car seats are misused. To help combat this issue, NHTSA and DHEC are recognizing Child Passenger Safety Week from September 20-26, 2020, a campaign dedicated to helping parents and caregivers make sure their children ride as safely as possible — every trip, every time.

Motor vehicle crashes are a leading killer of children, according to NHTSA, and while fatalities declined from 2017 to 2018 (the most recent data available), there is still work to be done to completely eliminate these preventable tragedies. Car seats, booster seats, and seat belts can make all the difference in saving lives.

Children are often moved to the front seat before they should, which increases the risk of injury and death, even if that child is buckled up. The safest place for all kids under 13 is in the back seat. NHTSA reported that, in 2015, about 25.8% of children 4 to 7 who should have been riding in booster seats were prematurely moved to seat belts, and 11.6% were unbuckled altogether.

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DHEC Observes National Assisted Living Week, Sept. 13-19

National Assisted Living Week is September 13-19 . This year’s theme is “Caring is Essential,” DHEC recognizes the amount of hard work, care and love that it takes to keep South Carolina’s assisted living facilities operational and its residents happy and healthy.

Assisted Living Facilities,also known as Community Residential Care Facilities (CRCFs) in SC, are designed to accommodate residents’ independence, changing needs and preferences and come in a wide range of sizes

CRCFs are not the same as nursing homes, and offer different healthcare. CRCFs are not designed to offer round the clock care for their residents and are not required to have any licensed personnel on staff.. CRCFs offer assistance with items such as medication management, meals, and supportive services such as laundry or transportation.

“Many CRCFs have been impacted and faced challenges with COVID-19. Various areas of DHEC remain in constant communication with the facilities to provide guidance and assistance. Maintaining relationships with facilities is crucial to the DHEC’s mission, said JoMonica Taylor, Interim Section Manager for Residential Facilities Oversight.

During the pandemic, Healthcare Quality has conducted a total of 84 Infection Control Focused inspections at CRCFs. Due to the high risk of COVID-19 to the vulnerable population in congregate settings and the spread of COVID-19 throughout SC, Governor McMaster ordered DHEC to restrict visitation at CRCFs in March 2020. The facilities have shown resiliency during these trying times and great creativity in problem solving. In lieu of visitations, facilities have incorporated closed-window visits, virtual visitation through tablets, and phone calls. During holidays, some  facilities coordinated drive-by parades for residents to enjoy.

On September 1, 2020, in coordination with the Governor’s Office, DHEC partially lifted the visitation restrictions by issuing guidelines for limited outdoor visitation, with the intent to issue more guidelines that further lift visitation restrictions in coming weeks.

More facts about CRCFs

  • There are 497 licensed CRCFs in South Carolina.
  • There are over 150 CRCFs with Memory Care Units for residents suffering from dementia.
  • CRCFs are inspected annually
  • 3 new CRCFs have opened in SC during the pandemic

DHEC agrees that Caring is Essential, and thanks CRCFs for all that they do. These essential facilities and their staff provide a service to their communities that directly contributes to DHEC’s vision, healthy people living in healthy communities.

”We are incredibly grateful for the cooperation and patience of families and staff at these facilities, both of whom continue do to the best that they can to keep residents connected with loved ones as our state continues to respond to the pandemic,” Taylor said.

For more information on assisted living facilities, please explore the links below:

South Carolina Assisted Living Association

South Carolina Healthcare Association

September is National Sickle Cell Awareness Month: A CLOSER LOOK AT SICKLE CELL DISEASE

September is recognized every year by the health community as Sickle Cell Awareness Month. Sickle Cell Disease (SCD) is a genetic disease that impacts families across the globe. Keeping individuals and communities informed about the struggles that come with the daily management of SCD can help raise awareness, as well as debunk stereotypes and stigmas associated with persons who have SCD.

SCD affects millions of people throughout the world.  Although SCD is most common among African Americans in the United States, it can also affect Hispanics and people whose ancestors come from countries in South Asia (such as India), southern Europe (such as Greece and Italy), and the Middle East (such as Saudi Arabia and Lebanon).

Quick Facts About SCD and SCT

  • SCD is a blood disorder that causes sickling of the red blood cells.
  • Sickle-shaped red blood cells become stuck in blood vessels and cause disruption of blood flow – this results in crises.
  • SCD affects 100,000 people in the United States.
  • SCD is an inherited blood disorder from the person’s parent, like any other genetic trait, such, as hair color and texture and eye color
  • SCT is where a person inherits one sickle cell gene and one normal gene.
  • SCT is not a disease, and the individual is generally asymptomatic.
  • SCT affects 1 million to 3 million Americans and 8 to 10 percent of African Americans.
  • Persons with SCT can pass the trait on to their children.

MinorityHealthSickleCell

SCD and COVID-19
Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, there is significant concern for individuals with underlying medical conditions. The CDC has indicated that persons with SCD and other blood disorders are among groups of individuals at an increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19.

Below are recommendations from the Sickle Cell Disease Association of America (SCDAA) for patients and families with SCD regarding COVID-19:

  • Discuss with your healthcare provider about converting all routine in-person appointments to virtual or telephonic.
  • Ask your healthcare provider for information about COVID-19 signs and symptoms and the importance of physical distancing to limit chances of exposure and infection. Discuss enhanced emotional connection through virtual or cellular-based modes.
  • Continue to seek medical help from your doctor, nurse, or hospital for fever and other signs of infection. Be sure to call first for advice on where to go safely for an evaluation.
  • Make certain you have an ample supply of all prescribed medications at home (including analgesics) to manage both acute and chronic pain.
  • Adhere closely to the correct use of your medications.

 DHEC’s Sickle Cell Program & Partnerships

DHEC is committed to educating the community and public about the availability of resources and services for individuals and families living with sickle cell disease.  DHEC’s Division of Children and Youth with Special Health Care Needs (CYSHCN), provides assistance to persons with sickle cell disease by covering services, such as: medical expenses, physician visits, durable medical equipment, medical supplies, and prescription drugs.  Assistance is offered to both children and adults who meet eligibility requirements. Additionally, CYSHCN partners with the Newborn Screening Follow-Up program to ensure infants who are newly diagnosed with sickle cell disease have a medical home to address treatment and care for their disease.

In addition to financial assistance and care coordination services, CYSHCN engages with the four Sickle Community Based Organizations in the state — the James R. Clark Memorial Sickle Cell Foundation, – Louvenia D. Barksdale Sickle Cell Anemia Foundation, – Orangeburg Area Sickle Cell Foundation and – COBRA Human Services Agency Sickle Cell Program – to ensure persons living with SCD have access to community resources and support services. Each of these organizations provide genetic screening, counseling, education, case management, and support groups to address the needs of families and individuals living with SCD. If you have questions about testing for you or your family, you can visit one of the four sickle cell community-based organizations.

Sickle Cell Has Many Faces

Sickle Cell Has Many Faces as illustrated through this video by the Center for Disease and Prevention Control. This video highlights how people of different races and ancestry could have SCD.

If you have questions about the DHEC sickle cell program, contact the CYSHCN office at 803-898-0784. For general information about sickle cell disease, visit cdc.gov/sicklecell or https://www.sicklecelldisease.org/.

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 Applauds Ambulatory Surgery Centers for Adjusting During Pandemic

DHEC’s Healthcare Quality provides state and federal oversight of surgery centers. Ambulatory surgery centers must be licensed and can also be certified. August is National Ambulatory Surgery Center Month

Since the coronavirus pandemic began, hospitals have been reaching out to Ambulatory Surgery Centers (ASCs) in search of space, staff, intensive care unit (ICU) beds, operating rooms, overflow care, equipment, and more.  

When CMS released Hospital Without Walls, Charleston ENT & Allergy was quick to jump at the opportunity. CMS’s Hospital Without Walls essentially removes any regulatory barriers and allows ASCs to operate as a hospital outpatient department (HOPD). 

The facility has now performed several procedures it had never performed before, all without complications. Submitted claims have not been reimbursed, reporting requirements have changed, and regulations that did not previously apply are now in place.  

Despite these hardships, Mandy Hawkins, Director of the surgery center at Charleston ENT & Allergy, said the benefit outweighed the inconveniences.  

“During this crisis we have been able to take on higher acuity cases freeing up valuable hospital space,” she said. “We have been able to proceed with cases that were being postponed within hospital systems preventing the possibility of worsening the prognosis for the patient.”  

They also test their physicians and staff daily as well as patients and families both on the day before and of the operating procedure date. Staffing and obtaining personal protective equipment PPE have been a challenge at times, but Hawkins says that the pandemic’s obstacles have improved the teamwork among her staff.  

“Our team has grown closer, working together through difficult times,” she said. “I absolutely love being part of my ASC. Working closely with the Governing Board of Ambulatory Surgery Center Association (ASCA), the Lowcountry Healthcare Coalition, DHEC, the South Carolina Emergency Management Division (SCEMD), and a myriad of ASC leaders throughout the state and  country, I have built relationships with healthcare providers, public service workers and people I never knew I would need at an ASC.” 

DHEC encourages the public to learn about the importance of ASCs, their mission, and their commitment to providing reliable and safe options to South Carolina’s communities. We value the staff, stakeholders, and constituents that continue advocating for these important assets to the great state of South Carolina and its people.  

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.