ORANGEBURG, S.C. (WIS) - Hospital occupancy across the state is on the rise and some hospitals are taking measures to make sure they can handle the surge.
Over a week ago, the Regional Medical Center in Orangeburg began constructing tents that will be used as an alternative care site for COVID-19 patients.
RMC officials said it’s a precautionary measure in case their hospital reaches capacity, but today RMC hospital officials and doctors held a press conference stating that their occupancy continues to rise, and they are prepared to take measures to make sure they can continue treating the entire community.
RMC said they are preparing to have the tents ready to go in the next two to three weeks. Regional Medical Center President and CEO Charles Williams said he’s concerned by the rising number of cases in South Carolina and is urging the community to take the necessary precautions so that hospitals aren’t overwhelmed with patients.
“At some point, we must do something, because there’s only so many beds, so many staff, we must do something,” Williams said.
Williams said of today there are only 8 available beds available in the hospital.
“Not only do we have 54 patients in house today, we’re impacted by staff. Today alone we have 34 employees that are out in some COVID related fashion,” Williams said.
RMC officials said the alternative care site will be used for less-severe patients who are close to being discharged, which frees up beds inside the hospital for the most critical patients.
“We’re really looking at it as an opportunity for us again to stay at a heightened level of readiness,” Matthew Hinkle, the RMC Vice President of Operations, said.
Williams said there will be four tents total.
“Our plans right now is to use one tent for 12 patients, another for the nursing station, another for donning and doffing and another for food supplies and other care needs,” Williams said.
DHEC’s latest report shows that Orangeburg’s hospitals are at 71% occupancy, but Williams said those numbers can be misleading.
“There have been hospitals that have reported beds, but they were not the appropriate beds so when you talk about 70%, there have been times when we’ve been at 98%,” Williams said.
He said that RMC only reports beds that are staffed.
“Because having a bed doesn’t mean anything unless I have the staff to take care of them,” Williams said.
Williams said he’s worried hospitals aren’t through the peak of things yet.
“I really don’t think we’ve seen the full impact from the 4th of July yet, and let’s be clear: labor day is coming, let’s be clear, flu season is coming. We must do all we can to combat this pandemic,” Williams said.
He also stated that one of the biggest challenges they are facing right now is staffing. He said they have tripled the amount of contract medical staff to nearly 70 staffers.
RMC officials said this is the first alternative care site of its kind in South Carolina and the tents were provided by DHEC and the South Carolina emergency management division. They also said that DHEC will be inspecting the tents before they are put into use.
The following officials were in attendance at Monday’s news conference:
- Charles E. Williams, RMC President and CEO
- Rev. Dr. Caesar Richburg, RMC Chairman of the Board of Trustees
- Dana Dalton, Chief Nursing Officer
- Matt Hinkle, Vice President of Operations
- Al Campbell, Vice President of Operations
- Mickey Whisenhunt, Senior Director of Quality and Medical Staff Services
- Dr. Wilbur Allen, Hospitalist, Medical Director
- Dr. Catherine Millender,Intensivist, Critical Care Medicine
- Dr. John Samies, Chief of Medical Staff / RMC Medical Director, Infection Control
- Dr. Nazir Allen, Medical Director of the Emergency Department