A partnership between the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control and the Columbia VA helped ensure that patients across the state of South Carolina received the best health care possible. This was during a time when hospitals across the country were being hit hard with COVID patients.

“Together, VA and South Carolina provided much-needed and life-saving services to our nation’s heroes when they were needed the most,” said Keith Frost, South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control incident commander for the COVID-19 response.

Columbia VA Director David Omura (right) presents Keith Frost with an award recognizing him and his team for their assistance and hard work during the pandemic.

In April 2020, Columbia VA received 5,000 KN-94 masks and 2,000 Puritan oral swabs, both items that were in high demand and hard to obtain in the early stages of the pandemic.

On September 25, David Omura, director of the Columbia VA Health Care System, presented Frost with an award of recognition for the community partnership between the two organizations throughout the pandemic.

Partnership grew stronger during pandemic

“We have partnered very close since the beginning of this pandemic to help our community facilities as well as solicit assistance when needed,” said Jeffrey Soots, Columbia VA’s associate director, chief of operations. “This partnership has been instrumental during this pandemic. We have always had a good partnership. It has grown even stronger during the pandemic.”

“Recognition by another partner who understands the significance of maintaining a response of this nature for over 18 months is heartwarming and provides validation for the efforts made by staff each day,” said Frost. “It meant the world to our team.”

“The timing when we received these supplies was instrumental,” Soots added. “The facility had less than 2,500 masks on hand for non-clinical care and receiving these 5,000 masks allowed us a few extras days until our truck of masks arrived. The same for the oral swabs. We had plenty of testing material but everyone was out of swabs. The swabs provided by South Carolina were instrumental in testing state Veteran home patients and staff.”

Columbia VA stepped in to assist South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control with challenges they faced during the pandemic.

VA aided them in gaining an ultra-low freezer for Orangeburg Regional, ventilators for Aiken Medical Center and BiPAP ventilators for Piedmont Regional.

“Despite the struggles presented to medical centers across the U.S., the pandemic has shown the importance and strength of community partnerships,” Soots noted.

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