National Guard assists Tidelands Health, other hospitals amid latest COVID-19 surge

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MURRELLS INLET, S.C. (WBTW) — The National Guard has once again been called in to help at the Tidelands Health emergency department, as well as several other hospitals, amid the latest surge in COVID-19 cases.

Four National Guard medics arrived Tuesday and immediately began assisting Tidelands Health team members in the emergency departments at Tidelands Waccamaw Community Hospital in Murrells Inlet and Tidelands Georgetown Memorial Hospital. This is the fourth time in the pandemic Tidelands Health has asked for help.

As emergency room wait times have increased over the last 10 days, Tidelands Health said the move to call for more help was data-driven and to be proactive.

“Recognizing the multiplication times, the doubling and tripling times that we were seeing and hearing in other regions — in places where the surge was ahead of us — we knew to really anticipate a substantial increase likely that week following Christmas,” said Ashley Capps, vice president of nursing and operations at Tidelands Health. “And that is what we saw.”

Capps said it’s a combination of a new COVID-19 surge, the return of a strong flu season, plus others who need emergency care. Capacity at Tidelands Health is at 111%, meaning there are more patients than beds.

“We really wanted to be as proactive and stay ahead of this this time,” Capps said.

Two of the Guard Medics are in Murrells Inlet and two are in Georgetown.

“Their expertise, their clinical experience — it’s invaluable as well as their ability to be flexible and respond and adapt so quickly,” Capps said.

It’s a similar story at McLeod in Florence.

“Not just the public has been impacted negatively by the symptoms with COVID, but our staff has too because omicron is far more prevalent and far more contagious,” said Lesli McGee, senior vice president of continuum of care for McLeod Health.

McLeod Health told News13 it has four guards on site as of Monday in Florence. The guards are helping staff with monoclonal antibody infusions.

While omicron is more contagious, Capps and McGee said severity hasn’t been as high as the other variants.

Grand Strand Health told News13 it has reached out for help, but did not have a timetable on when the help would arrive. Conway Medical Center has not asked for help as of Wednesday.

The number of children hospitalized with confirmed or suspected COVID-19 is 221.9% higher than the previous seven-day average, according to data Wednesday from the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control.

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