A slow, but steady increase in the number of patients being treated for COVID-19 at the Medical University Hospital in Charleston has prompted a decision among leaders of the health care system to admit some adult patients to the new MUSC Shawn Jenkins Children's Hospital.
Prisma Health in the Midlands and Upstate regions has similar moves in place.
The MUSC decision, in part, is intended to make room in other parts of the hospital to treat patients with both COVID-19 and other illnesses.
Dr. Mark Scheurer, the chief of Children's and Women's services at MUSC, and Dr. Andy Atz, chairman of the Department of Pediatrics, told pediatricians and staff on Friday evening in an email that there "has been a slow, but steadily increasing, number of adults with COVID-19 admitted to MUSC Charleston over the last two weeks. ... In order to support our overall mission and allow for further expansion of adult COVID care in Main (hospital) and ART (Ashley River Tower), it is appropriate that we take our first step in directly supporting our adult colleagues."
In this email, Scheurer and Atz explained that as of Friday night, adults younger than 30 years old with or without COVID-19 will be admitted to the pediatric intensive care unit at the Shawn Jenkins Children's Hospital, which opened in February.
"Although volumes of these ICU level patients are likely to be small, non-ICU pediatric consultants may be called to support their care," the doctors wrote.
The children's hospital is located at Calhoun Street and Courtenay Drive on the peninsula.
In a statement on Saturday, MUSC Health CEO Pat Cawley said, "The entire state of SC is seeing a rise in COVID cases, with all hospitals seeing increasing numbers of patients. This move to house young adults in SJCH is simply one we potentially planned for if the number of young adults with COVID needing hospitalization was greater than the number of children infected. We also need to be able to care for people with non-COVID related illnesses in our adult hospital, and this flexibility helps us with that capacity."
In recent weeks, coronavirus cases and the number of hospitalizations related to COVID-19 in South Carolina has substantially increased. Public health officials have been laser-focused on monitoring hospital capacity across the state. Failure to stop the spread of the disease could potentially overwhelm the health care system's ability to care for the sick.
"Prisma Health has an extensive surge plan in place to increase capacity across the entire system in order to provide care for COVID-19 and other patients," spokeswoman Tammie Epps said on Saturday. "The surge plan does include using its Children’s Hospitals for adults, if needed."
Prisma Health Children’s Hospital-Upstate "shifted one of its units to care for non-COVID-19 adults," she said. "The patient units are completely separate, with children hospitalized in the Children’s Hospital main tower. In the Midlands, Prisma Health Children’s Hospital-Midlands is not currently being used for adults."
According to the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control, more than 43,260 South Carolinians have been diagnosed with COVID-19 this year. By July 18, the department anticipates that number will top 65,000.
In Charleston, Berkeley and Dorchester counties, more than three-quarters of all hospitals beds were used as of Thursday. Statewide, 71.44 percent of the nearly 11,000 hospital beds were in use, 1,190 of them by COVID-19 patients.
Jessica Holdman contributed to this report.