with Sharon Purvis
Q: What is one challenge that you’ve faced during the pandemic that’s the same as other hospitals?
A: Even as a hospital specializing exclusively in pediatric orthopaedics, we faced great uncertainty regarding how the virus would play out. It was unknown whether or not our assistance would be necessary for other hospitals facing capacity issues; for that reason, like other hospitals, we postponed elective surgeries. However, while most surgical procedures at our hospital are not emergent—there were those that were time sensitive. For instance, our Mehta casting program helps children facing progressive infantile scoliosis—an aggressive curvature of the spine. Treatment is time sensitive, as infants and toddlers grow quickly, and the casting procedure is an involved process requiring the patient to go under anesthesia. Like other hospitals, it was important we identified surgeries that could wait and—equally important—those that could not.
Q: What’s a challenge that you’ve faced that’s unique to Shriners?
A: Our hospital’s catchment area covers six states: South Carolina, North Carolina, Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee and Virginia. During a time when travel is discouraged, the wide geography of our patient base creates a set of circumstances that most health care systems do not have to take into consideration.
Q: Many hospitals have placed restrictions on visitors and people accompanying patients, but I imagine it’s quite different in a setting where your patients are children. How have you handled this?
A: The emotional well-being of our patients is always something we consider, along with their physical health. In order to keep all of our children safe, we allowed each patient to be accompanied by only one parent or guardian. Recently, with sanitation and hygiene practices in full practice over the last few months, and a masking policy firmly in place, we re-evaluated and found that it was safe to expand our policy to allow two guardians to accompany our surgical patients. With every choice we’ve made along this winding road, the first question we’ve asked ourselves is: What is best for our patients?
Q: The Greenville Shriners Hospital is located on the same campus as Greenville Memorial Hospital. Is there a connection?
A: It is a common misconception that we are a part of Greenville Memorial Hospital; we are not. While we are located in a freestanding building on the same campus, we are a separate entity entirely. We do, however, enjoy a great working relationship with Greenville Memorial, and we utilize some of the talented members of the Prisma Health anesthesiology and radiology departments, as well as some subspecialists.
Q: Have you been able to continue offering all of your normal services and procedures, or were some of them pushed back because they’re considered to be elective procedures?
A: While telemedicine has been on our horizon for a while now, we used this time to fully launch our Fast Pass Virtual Visit service. As we worked to keep foot traffic in the hospital limited for the safety of those whose care required in-person service, this tool proved invaluable. Meanwhile, the needs of our other patients remained a paramount priority as well—and we were happy to provide them with the opportunity to visit with their nurse and doctor in the safety and comfort of their own home. In fact, many of our doctors felt that—with the ability to see and understand the home environment of their patients—they were able to offer even more personalized care.
Q: What do you want people to know about Shriners Hospital now, while so much focus is on COVID-19?
A: As things are opening up in the Upstate and across the country, there has been a rise in people testing positive for the coronavirus. However, we are proud to say we have not had one patient test positive. This has been through design, and hard work. Preventive measures, including screening questions, temperature checks, mandatory masks for all who enter the hospital and being vigilant about social distancing, have helped us achieve this standard. Additionally, we have employee “navigators” who stay with our patients and families to help them progress directly from our parking garage to their scheduled appointment room. Our entire staff is back to work, and all of our services are available again—including physical and occupational therapy, inpatient and outpatient surgery, outpatient clinic, motion analysis lab, and prosthetics and orthotics. As always, our multidisciplinary approach to care means everything is available under one roof; this eliminates the need for families to make multiple stops. We are extremely proud that the model we have had in place at the Greenville Shriners Hospital for decades could not be more relevant and appropriately designed to face the challenges we are experiencing right now in healthcare—and our world.