Beaufort Memorial Hospital planning for surge, says it can’t predict the future


By Mindy Lucas

Beaufort Memorial Hospital says it is working “around the clock” to plan for a potential surge in coronavirus cases, but whether the hospital has enough supplies, equipment and resources in the event of a drastic increase in patients remains to be seen.

The hospital recently stated that it was using “every resource available” and was also working to inventory equipment, order additional supplies, identify potential isolation units and cross-train staff in the event of a patient surge, according to a news release issued Friday, March 27.

“Today we’re in a good place, and we’ve been working tirelessly to plan for a potential surge,” Beaufort Memorial Hospital President and CEO Russell Baxley said. “We can’t predict the future and we won’t speculate about what we don’t know, but we can and will continue to use every resource available to take care of our staff and everyone who comes through our doors.” 

If needed, the hospital could support 29 patients on ventilators inside and outside of the ICU, according to the release. The hospital has the ability to convert inpatient units to support a surge in COVID-19 patients, it also stated.

But whether that will be enough for the area’s cases, no one can say since that number remains unknown.

With 91 positive cases in Beaufort County as of Tuesday, March 31, the county ranks fifth in counties with the most cases.

In addition, the Department of Health and Environment Control (DHEC) expects the state to have as many as 8,053 cases by May 2, according to forecast numbers the agency released on March 24.

Exactly how many of those cases could occur in Beaufort County, no one can say for sure and depends on a number of factors, experts say, such as continued social distancing.

Last week, the hospital opened a triage and screening area in tents set up in the hospital parking lot in front of its ER. The area is specifically for COVID-19 cases and is designed to accommodate more patients and staff while protecting other ER patients. 

The tents are on loan from the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control and will be on site indefinitely, a separate release stated.

The hospital also stated on Friday that it did have Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) but is also looking for additional materials through supply chains. Supply meetings are held twice daily to discuss inventory, shipments and conservation, the release stated.

The hospital was also notified on Friday, that South Carolina had received another shipment of medical equipment from the Strategic National Stockpile.

That shipment included face shields, surgical masks, gowns and gloves, which were distributed to every county in the state, according to DHEC.

The hospital also received several ventilators from Beaufort County EMS, as well as donations from the community including C-PAP machines to help support respiratory patients, and funds to purchase an additional ventilator.

In addition, dozens of community members, businesses and schools have donated PPEs, hand-sewn masks and meals for medical staff caring for patients. To donate supplies, meals or funds to support front-line healthcare staff visit www.beaufortmemorial.org/covid19support or email donations@bmhsc.org

In the meantime, the hospital had tested more than 300 people for the coronavirus as of last week, and continues to run its mobile test collection site at the Beaufort Memorial Medical and Administrative Center, at 990 Ribaut Road. 

Patients reporting to this site must have a physician’s order and related paperwork on file before arriving on site. 

Currently, test samples are sent to the state laboratory through DHEC and to a Quest Diagnostics lab in Virginia. Turnaround times for results can vary between five and eight days. 

The hospital is working with another independent testing resource to evaluate upgrading hospital lab equipment to run tests locally, the release from the hospital stated. If successful, the hospital may have that ability by late April, a best-case scenario.

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