Self Regional Medical Center’s intensive care unit is full, so on Tuesday, the staff expanded the ICU to handle the growing number of COVID-19 patients.
The existing, 30-bed ICU was filled, said Self Director of Marketing and Public Relations Mark Hyatt. The new ICU, on the second floor of the patient tower, will provide 14 fully equipped and staffed ICU beds.
“Though it is our sincere hope that the number of COVID inpatients will soon start to decline, all indications are that it will continue to rise,” Hyatt said. “We are grateful to be able to scale up to meet the growing needs of our patients during this pandemic.”
In the event the 14 new beds fill as well, he said hospital staff have identified other areas that can be converted into ICU beds. In earlier talks about possible expansions, Self Chief Medical Officer Dr. Matt Logan said the hospital has enough ventilators to maintain an expanded ICU.
All procedures and policies that apply for the regular ICU also apply to the new site. Non-COVID-19 patients in critical care areas have visitation limited to one visitor per day between 1-3 p.m. Security must call the critical care unit before sending a visitor there, to ensure visitation is permitted.
In terms of staffing, Hyatt said a number of Self employees volunteered to be reassigned to the additional ICU unit, along with some contract clinicians from outside Self. The additional 14 beds will be fully staffed. Hyatt said Self’s staff members are grateful to have such skilled, dedicated and compassionate team members.
“As is the case with every hospital in the US, clinical staffing continues to be one of our biggest challenges,” he said. “Even before the pandemic, there was a nationwide shortage of nurses, and that situation is even more challenging now.”
In early July, Self CEO Jim Pfeiffer and Logan went before Greenwood County Council and said that week saw the hospital dealing with its highest inpatient care numbers to that point. They supported the council passing an ordinance requiring people to wear masks. The ordinance did not pass, and in its place County Council approved a resolution urging — but not requiring — residents to wear facial coverings.
Self’s command center monitors incoming information about COVID-19 and collaborates with state and county officials to review the latest data. While Self’s ICU has filled in the past, Pfeiffer made clear that staff work constantly to determine when patients can safely be transferred to other parts of the hospital for specific treatment.
Pfeiffer previously explained that Self’s surge plan would trigger if the ICU was at full capacity and there was no possibility of safely moving patients to other areas of the hospital in the near future. While the hospital’s inpatient numbers and ICU occupancy fluctuate often, he said staff closely monitor these factors when making decisions.
While Greenwood County has seen a decline in new cases in recent weeks that seems to correspond with the city’s mask ordinance, neighboring counties also served by Self have not seen that decline. Also, new case totals include those with mild or no symptoms and don’t necessarily correspond with hospitalizations.