DHEC partners with hospice facilities to increase medical need shelters during disasters

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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WBTW) — The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) is partnering with certain in-patient hospice facilities that are willing to serve as medical needs shelters (MNS) in the case of a weather emergency or other disaster. 

During an event that would cause residents to evacuate their homes, these facilities would temporarily house individuals with medical conditions that aren’t severe enough to require hospitalization but do require certain accommodations, such as backup electricity for medical devices, cold storage for medicine, or a hospital bed. While DHEC has dozens of planned medical needs shelters around the state, partnering with in-patient hospice facilities allows for easier accommodation of South Carolinians with certain medical needs.

“Over the last several years, the levels of need have increased in our shelters with more people needing medical beds, and other additional assistance,” Dr. Brannon Traxler, DHEC Public Health Director, said. “Partnering with these in-patient hospice facilities helps us ensure all South Carolinians receive the care they need during a situation that requires evacuation to a shelter location.”

Since 2019, DHEC’s Bureau of Public Health Preparedness, its Division of Healthcare Quality, and other areas of the agency began discussions with hospice associations, including the South Carolina Home Care and Hospice Association and The Carolinas Center for Hospice and End of Life Care, about the use of in-patient hospice facilities to house medical needs for those who use the shelter during disasters. As plans developed, DHEC connected with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) for federal recommendations and approval.

DHEC now has agreements in place with Agape Care Group and Embrace Hospice House. Between these two providers, there are five locations in the state, at least one in each of the four DHEC regions of the state, that can accommodate medical needs for those who need a medical bed during a disaster situation. DHEC would arrange for transportation of these individuals from their homes to an in-patient hospice facility in their region as necessary and available.

“During emergency situations, collaborations like these are what help make sure all South Carolinians are cared for and kept safe,” Traxler said. “We are grateful to these providers who are willing to open their doors to others in a time of need.”

When evacuations are ordered in South Carolina, information is available from the South Carolina Emergency Management Division and DHEC. If a person thinks they are eligible for an MNS, they can call DHEC’s Care Line and be directed as appropriate. As these sites are reserved for individuals who depend upon the resources provided at these shelters, individuals should not go directly to a location without calling the Care Line (1-855-472-3432) first to determine if they’re eligible. If an individual shows up at a medical needs shelter location and isn’t eligible, they’ll be re-directed to a safe alternate location.

For more information, visit scdhec.gov.

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