At the outset of the second quarter of its fiscal year, the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) and Medical University Hospital Authority (MUHA) Board of Trustees held their regularly scheduled combined committee sessions and board meeting on Friday, Oct. 9. To avoid the potential transmission of COVID-19, the meeting was held via video conference and in adherence with mask use and social distancing for those physically present in the board room.
“While elevating safety and continuing to face ongoing COVID-19 challenges remain priorities, MUSC trustees and administrators are also focused on short term and long-range planning,” said James Lemon, D.M.D., chairman of the MUSC/MUHA board. “This institution is taking care of COVID-19 patients, taking care of our tripartite mission and poised to pivot and adjust course as needed,” Lemon said.
In response to a board request, two MUSC team members provided summaries about how COVID-19 has affected the state and the MUSC Health System.
“Currently in the world, the United States is still wrestling with this pandemic. As of the first week of October, in the United States, we’re almost at 7.5 million documented COVID-19 positive cases and 210,000 deaths,” stated Cassandra Salgado, M.D., director of the Division of Infectious Diseases and a hospital epidemiologist.
“We are still reporting almost 40,000 new COVID-19 cases and almost 500 deaths a week in our country. If you want to know how this compares worldwide, from March to October, the United States has significantly exceeded the number of COVID-19 cases and associated death rates – up to 24 times more than the majority of countries in the world reporting COVID-19 data.”
Salgado used graphics to demonstrate COVID-19 infection rates across the U.S. “Even though South Carolina is considered a small, less-populated state, our impact based on prevalence of COVID-19 has been notable,” she explained.
“The good news is that South Carolina currently has a significantly decreasing number of cases,” she added. “We’re going in the right direction. Currently, our rate of infectivity and transmission of the virus is going down.”
Salgado further noted that counting both confirmed infections to date, more than 152,000 cases statewide, and those who are likely to have been infected, the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control estimates that there are possibly more than 1.5 million people in South Carolina who have been infected with COVID-19, which could represent 25% to 30% of the state’s population.
In terms of what might happen next in the Palmetto State, Salgado shared insights from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, which estimates that at our current rate of infection, we could be approaching 4,300 or more deaths due to the virus by the end of November.
“Based on what we know of our current epidemiology and what’s happened in other places, we are keeping a watchful eye on the possibility of another surge of cases near the end of November going into December, lasting through the month of January.” She explained that MUSC has ample supplies of personal protective equipment, including masks, gloves and goggles, as well as ventilators to meet the needs of health care professionals and patients as we go forward.
Danielle Scheurer, M.D., professor of Medicine and chief quality officer for the MUSC Health System, discussed different types of testing for the virus. Among her topics, she focused on various collection methods such as nasal swabs and saliva, the efficacy of the tests and national allocations for the tests. She explained that MUSC Health anticipates rolling out more widespread saliva-based testing in the coming weeks.
“When it comes to testing, our goals are easier collection, faster throughput and higher capacity,” Scheurer said.
“It’s really important to acknowledge the incredible amount of work that’s been done and professionalism that’s been exhibited by individuals like Dr. Salgado and Dr. Scheurer,” said MUSC President David J. Cole, M.D., FACS. “The level that MUSC has achieved in serving the public is because of the work individuals have done and the teams they have put together to enable us to navigate successfully at this point in time.”
Cole and the board punctuated his expressions of gratitude with a round of applause for the two physicians and their diligent teams.
“In my opinion, the one thing that we’ve learned is how to coexist with COVID-19,” Cole said. “It’s imperfect. It’s been messy. It’s been hard. The challenging part right now is too many people have the mindset that, ‘Hey, it’s gone, or we’re wishing it away, and we just sort of let up and stop being vigilant.’ Until we get a more definitive answer to address this virus, we’re still at risk as a community, state and nation.”
During the unprecedented onslaught of the virus, philanthropy to benefit MUSC has been consistently forthcoming. Since the July 1 start of FY 2021, the MUSC enterprise has received more than $10 million in donations and support.
Joseph C. Von Nessen, Ph.D., a research economist in the Division of Research at the Darla Moore School of Business at the University of South Carolina, joined the video conference meeting to present a summary of the most recent MUSC economic impact study. The study was conducted before the global pandemic reached South Carolina; however, due to the urgent need to address the health crisis, the opportunity to share the results of the study was delayed. Due to the swift financial recovery of the MUSC enterprise since the pandemic began in March, the data presented is considered accurate and timely.
The purpose of the study was to quantify specifically the economic and social benefits that convey from MUSC to South Carolina and its local regions. The total annual economic impact of MUSC on the state is approximately $5.6 billion, which supports more than 38,000 jobs each year. The study reported that few organizations have an economic impact of this magnitude on South Carolina’s economy. For every ten jobs that are supported directly by MUSC, an additional eleven jobs are created elsewhere in South Carolina.
“Although the bulk of its total economic impact is contained within the Charleston Tri-county region, MUSC also has a broad reach that extends statewide,” Von Nessen said. “MUSC supports a large number of suppliers located throughout South Carolina, in addition to having acquired four regional hospitals in Lancaster, Chester, Florence and Marion counties that are now part of the MUSC Health system.”
The study also reported that MUSC is responsible for 42% of all jobs in the Charleston health care industry and 56.1% of workers in the knowledge economy.
“As the demand for health care rises, the importance of high-quality medical care, education and research – like that provided by MUSC – will increase in the coming years,” Von Nessen stated.
To review the economic impact study, please click here.
In other business, the 16-member MUSC/MUHA board also voted to approve the following items:
- To allow MUSC Health to apply for a certificate of need to add six neonatal intensive care unit-level beds at the MUSC Shawn Jenkins Children’s Hospital.
- A resolution authorizing MUSC to make application to the South Carolina State Fiscal Accountability Authority for the issuance of general obligation bonds, not to exceed $11,650,000. Most of the funds will be used for campus construction, furnishings and improvements for the university campus community.
- Pending state approval and final inspections, the acquisition of two buildings at 159 and 159½ Rutledge Avenue for use by the College of Health Professions to secure additional office and classroom space in support of academic and research expansion.
- A new lease agreement for an additional 7,000 square feet of clinical space at MUSC Health in Lancaster, which will be used to provide gastroenterology and hepatology services.
- A lease renewal for 99 parking spaces located at 96/102 President Street.
The MUSC/MUHA Board of Trustees serve as separate bodies to govern the university and hospital, normally holding two days of committee and board meetings six times a year. For more information about the MUSC Board of Trustees, visit http://academicdepartments.musc.edu/leadership/board/index.html.