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Self reducing furloughs, expanding surgical services

Self Regional Medical Center

Self Regional Medical Center

More Self Regional Healthcare staff members can expect to be back at work soon as the hospital system works to strike the balance between caution amid COVID-19 and offering surgical services.

The complicated decisions on when and how to return staff to work are all taking place with the backdrop of a continuing global pandemic, and Self’s staff is still working hard to keep up with the virus in the Greenwood area.

“We’re continuing our screening process, and we’re seeing about 70-100 folks a day through our drive-thru screening site,” said Dr. Matt Logan, chief medical officer at Self.

Self has tested 2,968 people since the COVID-19 pandemic started, with 132 of those being positive, 71 of which lived in Greenwood County; 2,723 were negative, and 107 tests were still pending as of Tuesday afternoon. Five Self team members tested positive out of 84 staffers tested.

People can be tested at the drive-thru testing site without a physician’s orders, they just have to call to be screened for symptoms. The screening line is available at 864-725-4200.

A recent Self-sponsored testing event in Saluda County tested 372 people, with 24 coming back positive. That’s an infection rate of about 6.5%, which Self CEO and President Jim Pfeiffer said is about twice the rate Self sees from drive-thru testing at the hospital.

Another similar testing event is coming up from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Thursday, at Johnston Elementary School in Edgefield County, at 514 Lee St., Johnston. Tests are first-come, first-served as long as testing materials last.

At the hospital this week, the staff has resumed all surgical procedures. Elective procedures were put on hold because of the pandemic and Self resumed some elective procedures on May 4, but now all surgeries are available to patients.

Still, Logan said staff members are following procedural guidelines from the American College of Surgeons, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other leading authorities in medicine. Everyone coming into the hospital has their temperatures checked and are screened for the virus, and everyone is required to wear a mask. People receiving elective surgeries must be pre-screened for COVID-19.

And while restrictions at some businesses and restaurants have been lifted, Pfeiffer said the hospital is not budging an inch on its visitation policy. Unless visiting a mother in labor or a terminal patient, visitors are asked to stay away from the hospital. No other hospital that Self officials have spoken with is lifting restrictions, and neither will Self, Pfeiffer said.

“This isn’t like Lowe’s or a restaurant,” he said. “We have seriously compromised patients here, and we can’t risk letting our guard down for a minute.”

FurloughsOn April 12, Self Regional furloughed about 650 staff members, 63% of whom volunteered to take the unpaid time away from work. It was that move, in conjunction with stimulus money, that helped the hospital system barely keep on budget.

By the end of April, the hospital’s revenues were off budget by about 37%, Pfeiffer said. Without stimulus money, that would have resulted in a $5 million loss of operational funds.

Now that more procedures are being made available again, Pfeiffer said the hospital is making moves to bring people back to work. On May 10 the April furloughs were extended, but about 100 staffers returned to work. Some team members are planned to return next week, with more than 100 team members staying on furlough until June 6.

After that, Pfeiffer said the hospital will have to play things by ear and adapt as it goes. Tracking the current month’s budget, the hospital is on pace to have a shortfall of about 25%. Any moves when it comes to staffing and bringing more people into the hospital have to be made with extreme caution, Pfeiffer said.

It’s been said before, and Pfeiffer said it again: This virus isn’t gone. There are people infected with the virus who are showing no symptoms, and those people are at a greater risk of spreading the illness to others.

Because of this, he brushed off any debate about whether people should wear masks, saying it’s essential to public health that people cover up, keep diligently washing their hands and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces.

Contact staff writer Damian Dominguez at 864-634-7548 or follow on Twitter @IJDDOMINGUEZ.

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Coronavirus (COVID-19)

As the Lakelands and the country respond to the novel coronavirus pandemic, which has led to state and national emergency declarations, it is vital for everyone to have up-to-date information about the virus and its spread. As such, we're providing free access to all of our COVID-19 coverage, which is available on this page.

Here's the latest information on COVID-19 from health agencies and hospitals: