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Press Release

Prisma Health and State Partners Open Regional COVID-19 Recovery Units for Hospital Systems in the Upstate and Midlands

January 27, 2021

GREENVILLE, SC – Prisma Health has partnered with the South Carolina Emergency Management Division, the South Carolina National Guard, the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) and the South Carolina Hospital Association to create Regional COVID-19 Recovery Units – essentially, shared recovery units to serve all the hospitals in that region during a surge.

The initial units, based in Prisma Health Laurens County Hospital and Prisma Health Tuomey Hospital, are available for any hospital in the state to transfer appropriate patients to help alleviate internal capacity challenges. The Laurens site fully opened Monday, Jan. 25, with the Tuomey site opening Wednesday, Jan. 27. In addition, a recovery unit could open at Prisma Health Baptist Hospital in Columbia as soon as next week, with an additional unit being planned for the Upstate as necessary.

This model may be deployed elsewhere in the state as needed, with S.C. Hospital Association leaders seeing it as a possible prototype that could be used nationwide.

Shifting these patients to dedicated regional recovery units will help healthcare systems fully utilize their local hospital intensive care unit beds and staffing for patients in need of higher acuity care – whether due to COVID-19 or other medical needs. The regional recovery units will care for lower acuity COVID-19 patients who are not yet ready for discharge and still need an inpatient level of care to support their full recovery.

Regional hospital systems may use normal transfer protocol for patients who meet the criteria for the Regional Recovery Units.

Patients will be cared for by a combination of staff, including staff contracted by S.C. Emergency Management Division, soldiers from the South Carolina National Guard and Prisma Health.

Current Regional COVID-19 Recovery Units include the following:

  • The Laurens unit opened as a step-down unit for Prisma Health facilities and has expanded to nearly double the original size thanks to additional staffing provided by the S.C. Emergency Management Division. The 29-bed unit occupies the third floor of Laurens County Hospital.
  • A 12-bed unit at Prisma Health Tuomey Hospital in Sumter will open Wednesday and could expand to 24 beds as necessary and as staffing becomes available.
  • A 12-bed unit at Prisma Health Baptist Hospital in Columbia could open as soon as next week and expand to 36 beds as necessary and as staffing becomes available

“Prisma Health has been working closely with our state partners to develop a unique and cost-efficient model for shared alternate care sites for areas of the state with the greatest need,” said Dr. Karen Lommel, the Prisma Health physician lead for the innovative Regional COVID-19 Recovery Units plan.

“This is not just about providing surge beds for COVID-19 patients. We also need to work together to ensure that all healthcare systems are able to continue providing all of the levels of care needed for our communities – both emergency and preventive care – without overwhelming their systems. We are exceptionally grateful for the support of our state partners to help all of our hospitals continue to provide exceptional care. While the vaccine is indeed the light at the end of the tunnel, people need to realize we’ve still got a lot of tunnel ahead of us,” said Lommel.

In addition to Prisma Health staff, approximately 125 nurses, respiratory therapists, clinicians and support personnel – including 20 National Guardsmen – will be used at the three initial Regional Recovery Units.

Said S.C. Emergency Management Division Director Kim Stenson, “Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, SCEMD has worked with each of the state’s hospitals to develop medical surge plans in case they are needed. We’re now seeing those plans being put into action as more and more people need medical care. It’s been a challenge to fulfill certain requests for resources due to extreme demand for extra medical staff nationwide, but we’re confident we’ll be able to find the support our hospitals need to care for people.”

For the South Carolina National Guard, the Regional Recovery Units are a way to serve their communities. “The South Carolina National Guard is honored to support our healthcare providers in the state who are on the front lines of fighting COVID-19,” said U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Van McCarty, the adjutant general for South Carolina. “Whether it’s administering the vaccine, providing patient support, or testing our citizens for COVID, our Soldiers are proud to serve our state and local communities during this pandemic. They truly believe they are making a difference and saving lives.”

S.C. Hospital Association President and CEO Thornton Kirby said the approach could become a model for other areas of the nation. “We’re thrilled to have been part of the planning process for this new approach. With it in place, we hope we can ease the burden on our healthcare systems and help them continue to provide the outstanding care that our communities depend upon.”

“DHEC has worked closely with SCEMD and others throughout the pandemic to ensure hospitals and other healthcare providers have the ability to provide exceptional care for South Carolinians during a time of unprecedented challenges,” said Dr. Brannon Traxler, DHEC Interim Public Health Director. “We appreciate Prisma Health’s collaboration throughout the development of this innovative regional model.”

State health officials urge South Carolinians to help support hospitals and the healthcare community by continuing to wear a mask, stay six feet apart, get tested often and limit contact with those outside of their homes. These actions can put our state on a downward trend and reduce additional burden on our healthcare system.

About Prisma Health

Prisma Health is a not-for-profit health company and the largest healthcare system in South Carolina. With nearly 30,000 team members, 18 hospitals, 2,947 beds and more than 300 outpatient sites with nearly 2,000 physicians, Prisma Health serves more than 1.2 million unique patients annually in its 21-county market area that covers 50% of South Carolina. Prisma Health’s goal is to improve the health of all South Carolinians by enhancing clinical quality, the patient experience and access to affordable care, as well as conducting clinical research and training the next generation of medical professionals.