As the waters continue to recede in areas across South Carolina, we find sunshine in the selfless acts undertaken by the state’s hospitals to help their communities and each other. While Palmetto Health, Providence, and other Midlands health care providers continue to manage concerns surrounding Columbia’s water supply, there is solace in the fact that other hospitals across the state, and the nation, stand ready to help.
On October 1, Governor Haley declared a state of emergency for South Carolina in advance of potentially historic flooding for the state. With unprecedented rains set to hit South Carolina, SCHA quickly assembled a team to coordinate efforts between state and federal officials and local hospitals. Through those partnerships, the state was able to establish a mutual-aid program to assist facilities most affected by the storm. Greenville Health System, along with 60 hospitals around the state, offered to support Midlands and Lowcountry facilities ravaged by the “1,000-year” flood with water purification resources, instrument sterilization, and the sharing of beds, staff, and other resources. Fire trucks and pumps from cities across South Carolina were rushed to Columbia, pumping over 300,000 gallons into the water system for Midlands hospitals. It was a true statewide team effort, and there were no bigger team players than the employees of SC hospitals.
Hospital employees around the state stepped up to work extra shifts, making quick decisions to improvise when needed. At Tidelands Health in Georgetown, employees banded together, wading through dangerous waters to coordinate transportation with their colleagues to ensure that the hospital was properly staffed to serve patients. Employees brought in snacks and toothbrushes for their colleagues that stayed in the hospital overnight—some out of dedication to their community, some because they no longer had a home to go to.
Tidelands Health Senior VP and CNO, Pam Maxwell, shared the story of a nurse who lives in Conway. While her house was okay, it was surrounded by water, leaving her unable to get into work. On Friday, October 9, that nurse got in her kayak and quickly capsized into neck-deep water. She was able to climb back into the kayak and returned home, where she changed her clothes, got back in her kayak and paddled one mile to where she had safely parked her car. She came into work.
But it wasn’t just hospitals in South Carolina that answered the call. Columbia, Mississippi has a long history with Columbia, SC. The city was named after Columbia, SC, from which many of the early settlers migrated. The two cities connected even deeper in December 2014 when Mississippi was slammed by deadly tornadoes that left the area devastated. This sparked a campaign: Columbia, SC for Columbia, MS Tornado Relief. That campaign is now coming full circle as communities in Mississippi return thanks for the support they received in their time of need. Two 18-wheeler trucks from Columbia, MS arrived October 13 with flood relief supplies for Midlands hospitals and a proclamation for Columbia, SC Mayor Steve Benjamin recognizing the leaders of community relief efforts. Like family, sister cities support each in their time of need.
On behalf of SCHA, special thanks to all those hospital employees, volunteers, and neighbors that have emerged as leaders in a time when South Carolina needs it most. Like Columbia, SC and Columbia, MS, we’re all family now.