About 40 S.C. National Guard medics will begin helping local hospitals this week as the number of COVID-19 cases in the Grand Strand area continues to surge.

The medics will arrive in the region Wednesday, according to a news release. They will provide clinical support at McLeod Loris, Conway Medical Center, McLeod Seacoast, Tidelands Georgetown Memorial Hospital and Tidelands Waccamaw Community Hospital.

The area’s hospitals worked collaboratively through the South Carolina Hospital Association, Georgetown County Emergency Management and Horry County Emergency Management to request and receive National Guard support, according to the release.

On Monday, CMC decided to stop performing elective surgeries and only perform “medically-urgent” surgeries in the wake of rising hospitalizations linked to COVID-19.

“This decision was not made lightly. We understand these surgical postponements and the visitor restrictions can be an inconvenience, but this is for the health and safety of our patients, staff, and the overall community. The temporary stoppage will hopefully allow time for our community to heal," said Bret Barr, CEO and president of CMC, in a release.

While the state Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) has not reported the number of hospitalizations linked to COVID-19 due to a change in their reporting methods, the last know hospital bed capacity in Horry County was 83.8% on July 18.

“Over the past month, COVID-19 hospitalizations have increased significantly in Georgetown and Horry counties,” said Thornton Kirby, SCHA president and CEO in a release from Tidelands Health. “Staffing support from the National Guard will allow the region’s hospitals, which are operating at or near capacity, to expand their ability to care for patients in need.”

According to the release, COVID-19 cases are increasing rapidly in the region, with more than 4,000 new cases diagnosed in Georgetown and Horry counties since July 1. All of the region’s hospitals are at or near capacity in their emergency departments, intensive care units and inpatient care units.

“The staff here at CMC and other health care organizations throughout the region have performed tremendously well in unprecedented circumstances,” said Barr of Conway Medical Center. “The specialized care required for COVID-19 patients in isolation places a strain on the entire staffing system. Plus, as this virus spreads throughout our communities, it has inevitably begun to directly infect front line health care workers who sacrifice so much for those around them. We are grateful to the National Guard for coming to the aid of our communities yet again and ensuring our region's health care needs are met.”

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