McMaster says he will order hospitals to put off elective surgeries if vaccinations don’t speed up

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Gov. Henry McMaster says hospitals need to speed up their vaccination process and get all of the shots they have into people’s arms right away.

This announcement came during his tour of Lexington Medical Center’s vaccination clinic in West Columbia on Monday afternoon.

The governor says if hospitals don’t speed up the process, he will ask or require them to cancel elective surgeries to free up staff for vaccinations. He’s also asking every hospital to administer their entire weekly vaccine allotment before they receive their next week’s shipment.

“The hospital shelves must be empty,” McMaster said. “When that new shipment comes in, the old shipment ought to be in somebody’s arm.”

The governor wants every hospital to be above a 90% vaccine utilization rate. Right now, 16 hospitals, including Lexington Medical Center, are below that rate. LMC is administering 600 doses a day and has a utilization rate of 60%.

“We’ve got doses that have not been given that are sitting on the shelves that some hospitals have that for whatever reason they haven’t given the shots,” McMaster said. “That ends. That is over, and we are not doing that anymore.”

But LMC and DHEC note that all doses in our state have been accounted for.

There are more than 200,000 vaccine appointments on the books right now, and only around 150,000 unused doses.

LMC says it has more appointments booked right now than doses available, and the hospital also wants to ensure there is a second dose available in three weeks for those vaccinated today.

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While the governor says he will ask hospitals to put off elective surgeries if the vaccination rates don’t improve, some hospitals say they have already had to do this to free up staff to care for their growing population of sick patients.

“If you don’t have the staff, then say so, and we’ll help find the staff,” McMaster explained. “But we also have some who seem reluctant to dedicate staff to this, and those are the ones we want to understand what is happening and that they get busy because it’s going too slow. “We’ve got to speed it up, we know how to speed it up, and we will speed it up.”

The governor also believes his order to allow DHEC to hire retired medical professionals to help administer vaccines should speed up the process.

Right now, DHEC has nearly 150 open positions to help with the vaccine rollout.

McMaster expects South Carolina to start receiving additional vaccine doses sometime in March, and he says he’s asked the federal government for additional shipments, but he says he does not know if we will receive them.

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