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New urgent care clinic opens in Beaufort

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Photo above: Cameron Price, PA-C, and Dan Smith, DO

Beaufort Memorial Hospital opens new Express Care & Occupational Health Clinic

To speed up care for patients suffering from acute, nonlife-threatening medical issues, Beaufort Memorial Hospital (BMH) has opened a new urgent care clinic at 974 Ribaut Rd. 

Beaufort Memorial Express Care & Occupational Health also will serve employees of businesses participating in the hospital’s new Well at Work, a comprehensive wellness program designed to cover everything from pre-employment physicals to workplace injuries. 

The clinic initially will be staffed by Dr. Dan Smith, a board-certified family medicine specialist with more than 14 years’ experience, and board-certified physician assistant Cameron Price. Prior to the launch of the clinic, Smith had been practicing at Beaufort Memorial Lowcountry Medical Group for the last three years. During his career, he has served as an ER and urgent care physician at several hospitals, most recently at Hampton Regional Medical Center. 

Open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, the clinic offers medical care for a wide range of minor ailments and injuries, including the flu, strep throat, sprains and strains, urinary tract infections, vomiting, diarrhea, dehydration and lacerations. Operating hours will expand as the need for services increases. 

“As an express care clinic, it’s designed to provide patients with faster access to care if they can’t get in right away to see their doctor,” said Angie Barber, practice operations administrator for Beaufort Memorial Physician Partners. “The clinic will support our primary care practices, easing the demand for same-day appointments and decreasing unnecessary visits to the ER.” 

In addition, companies enrolled in the Well at Work program will be able to send employees suffering workplace injuries to the clinic for expedited medical services, reducing lost time and rising workers’ compensation costs. The clinic also can perform employee physical exams, drug and alcohol testing and biometric screenings, including cholesterol and blood pressure tests.

“We plan to grow the facility based on the needs of the community,” Barber said. “We’ll expand our hours of operation and add support staff as demand increases for services.”

Beaufort Memorial Express Care & Occupational Health accepts most insurance, as well as cash and credit cards. For more information, call (843) 524-3344.

Beaufort Memorial Hospital merges two OBGYN practices

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Suzanne Wolf
Suzanne Wolf
Maureen Chapman
Maureen Chapman

Beaufort Memorial Hospital has merged its two women’s health care practices. Beaufort Memorial Gynecology Specialists, the Port Royal office of Dr. Patricia Thompson, is now part of Beaufort Memorial Obstetrics & Gynecology Specialists, a full-service practice with offices in both Beaufort and Bluffton. 

Dr. Thompson is currently on a leave of absence. Her certified nurse practitioner, Suzanne Wolf, and certified nurse-midwife Maureen Chapman, have joined the OB-GYN Specialists team that includes board-certified physicians Dr. Christopher Benson, Marlena Mattingly and Gregory Miller, certified registered nurse practitioner Maggie Bisceglia, and certified nurse-midwives Janna Jones Kersh and Catherine Tambroni-Parker. Wolf will be seeing patients in both Beaufort and Bluffton, while Chapman will see patients in Bluffton exclusively.

Located in Suite 210 of Beaufort Medical Plaza, 989 Ribaut Road, Beaufort Memorial Obstetrics & Gynecology Specialists is equipped with the latest screening and diagnostic technology. The practice recently opened a second full-service office in Suite 101 of Bluffton Medical Services at 7 Arley Way. To schedule an appointment with any of Beaufort Memorial Obstetrics and Gynecology Specialists’ health care providers, call 843-522-7820.

Local Cancer Care expands

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Photo above: The Beaufort Memorial Keyserling Cancer Center will move from its present Port Royal location to the hospital’s campus later this year.

Partnership to relocate services to Beaufort Memorial Hospital campus

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Beaufort Memorial Hospital (BMH) is partnering with Alliance Oncology and the Medical University of South Carolina Health System (MUSC Health) to relocate and expand the Keyserling Cancer Center to the main hospital campus in late 2018. 

The new center will be located in the Beaufort Medical Plaza, the three-story medical office building next to the hospital. Radiation oncology and infusion services will be provided on the first floor, while medical oncology physicians Drs. Majd Chahin and Mark Newberry will be co-located on the third floor. The move will bring together the full array of lab, imaging and breast health services that support the cancer program. Construction is expected to begin next month. 

“Beaufort Memorial Hospital has been providing outstanding cancer care to the community for more than a decade,” says Russell Baxley, MHA, President and CEO of Beaufort Memorial Hospital. “Our new and expanded partnership with MUSC and Alliance Oncology will allow us to offer cutting-edge technology and resources locally, providing the latest in cancer care to our patients.”

Last fall BMH officials announced that they would be moving the cancer center to a new location to consolidate and expand cancer services. The newly formed partnership provides both the capital investment and program development expertise required to expand and upgrade services to meet the growing needs of the Lowcountry. 

At the new Beaufort Memorial Keyserling Cancer Center, an MUSC clinical advisory committee will collaborate closely with local oncology experts and a dedicated clinical liaison will be onsite in the radiation oncology center. This expands upon the collaboration that was formed in 2016 when the cancer center began enrolling qualifying cancer patients in clinical trials through an affiliation with the National Cancer Institute-designated Hollings Cancer Center at MUSC.

“Given the needs of our patients throughout the state, it is imperative that we find innovative affiliations such as this one to ensure we are reaching all of those who need the expertise of our teams,” said Patrick J. Cawley, M.D., CEO, MUSC Health and Vice President for Health Affairs at Medical University of South Carolina. “We are excited and pleased to work with our colleagues at Alliance Oncology and Beaufort Memorial to bring the expertise of the Hollings Cancer Center even closer to those who need us.”

This project represents Alliance Oncology’s vision to partner with leading providers to expand regional services to communities, giving patients and their providers improved access, convenience and services closer to home. 

“In partnership with MUSC Health and Beaufort Memorial Hospital we are excited to add this location benefitting the local Beaufort community, and to augment academic cancer care services in the region,” said Greg Spurlock, President of Alliance Oncology. “As one of the nation’s leading providers of cancer care, this center will join Alliance affiliated locations across the country in providing high-quality, patient-centered services in partnership with premier cancer care providers and caregivers.” 

Alliance Oncology partners directly with hospitals and physicians to develop fully integrated oncology programs. Providing a full range of inpatient and outpatient service line capabilities, Alliance Oncology’s comprehensive approach to cancer care affords its partners the speed-to-market, quality clinical outcomes, patient satisfaction and operational expertise that sets them apart from the competition.  

Beaufort Memorial Flu Advisory

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Five things you can do if you think you have the flu

Covering your cough and washing your hands may not be enough to prevent you from catching the flu. So, if those body aches, fever and congestion have you concerned, here are some tips and services from Beaufort Memorial Hospital: 

1. Stay home. 

Researchers now know that the flu can be transmitted simply by breathing the same air as someone with the virus. No matter how badly you think you’re needed at work or school, do yourself and everyone else a favor and stay home.

2. Wear a mask. 

Please see item 1. For years we believed that covering your cough and washing your hands was enough to contain the virus, but if you’re living with other people, their risk of exposure is very high. Wearing a mask when you’re around others will prevent them from getting sick, too. 

3. Schedule a virtual visit. 

You can now see a doctor anytime, anywhere using your smartphone, tablet or computer equipped with a camera using BMH Care Anywhere. Download the app for free, or visit www.bmhcareanywhere.org. For just $59 a doctor can evaluate, diagnose and prescribe, if appropriate.  

4. Visit the Flu Fast Track. 

If your symptoms are worsening and you can’t wait to be seen Beaufort Memorial’s ER is offering a new, Flu Fast Track from 3 to 9 p.m., Monday through Friday, to help get you on your way quickly. Patients with classic flu symptoms will be triaged, tested and treated immediately.  

5. Use ER Online Check-In and skip the wait. 

If you need to get to the ER and the Flu Fast Track is closed, you can still schedule a visit using the hospital’s ER Online Check-In service and do your waiting at home. You’ll be more comfortable, and you won’t risk spreading the flu in a packed ER waiting room. Visit www.bmhsc.org and click “Check-In Online” on the home page. 

“The last place you need to be if you think you have the flu is in a busy waiting room, or any public area where you risk infecting others,” says BMH Emergency Center Director Kevin Kremer. “Our goal is to provide the community with access and advice to get the care they need, when they need it, and to prevent the spread of infection.”

To learn more visit www.BeaufortMemorial.org. 

Cataract surgery may reduce mortality in women

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By Dr. Mark Siegel

Women with cataracts who get surgery to treat the eye problem may be less likely to die prematurely than those who don’t get the operations, a recent U.S. study suggests. 

Researchers examined data on 74,044 women with cataracts, including 41,735 who underwent cataract surgery. Compared to women who didn’t get operations, those who did were 60 percent less likely to die from all causes during the study period. 

The results of this study suggest that cataract surgery may have benefits beyond improving vision even in patients who are elderly or sick. Cataracts often develop with age, and by age 80 roughly half of Americans either have cataracts or have had cataract surgery, according to the National Eye Institute. 

When people have a cataract, the lens in the eye becomes cloudy and things look blurry or less colorful than they should. During cataract surgery, the damaged lens is removed and replaced with an artificial lens that helps restore clear vision. 

Women in the current study were 71 years old, on average, and were part of the Women’s Health Initiative, a study that has been running for more than two decades and collects information on demographics, medical conditions and lifestyle habits. 

From 1993 to 2013, a total of 6,878 women who had cataract surgery died, as did 6,123 women with cataracts who didn’t get the procedure. 

This translates into a mortality rate from all causes of 1.5 deaths per 100 women each year in the surgery group and 2.6 deaths per 100 women each year in the other group, researchers report in JAMA Ophthalmology. 

With surgery, women also had a 37 percent to 69 percent reduced risk of death due to pulmonary, accidental, infectious, neurologic and vascular diseases, and cancer, the study also found. 

The study wasn’t a controlled experiment designed to prove whether or how cataract surgery might help people live longer. It’s possible that other factors influence both risk of death and likelihood of getting cataract surgery, for example. 

We cannot say for certain if people with cataracts who pass away are dying from factors specifically related to their vision loss (e.g. a fatal car accident from not being able to see well), but we believe people with decreased vision have decreased overall functioning with daily activities such as exercising, taking medicine and going to doctor appointments, all of which may be related to overall lifespan.

Another limitation of the study is that because it only included women, it’s not clear how surgery would influence survival odds for men. However, several previous studies have linked cataract surgery to lower odds of premature death for both men and women. 

Cataracts can’t be prevented, but the study results do suggest that there are benefits to treating them. This research argues for ready access to cataract surgery for older women. In a similar vein, this research argues for regular eye checks for older people.

Dr. Mark Siegel is the medical director at Sea Island Ophthalmology at 111 High Tide Drive (off Midtown Drive near Low Country Medical Group). Visit www.seaislandophthalmology.com.

TCL health sciences accepting applications

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The Technical College of the Lowcountry is now accepting applications for fall entry into its health sciences programs that include massage therapy, nursing, physical therapist assistant, radiologic technology, surgical technology and medical assisting. Applications are due April 17, 2018. 

“Entry into TCL’s health sciences programs is highly competitive, so it’s best to start the application process early,” Health Sciences Dean Glenn Levicki said.

Health Sciences students experience on-campus learning using high-tech simulation equipment and receive additional hands-on practice at clinical sites located throughout Beaufort, Jasper, Hampton and Colleton counties.

By combining classroom and clinical education, TCL health sciences programs truly prepare students for their careers. Plus, TCL students perform exceptionally well on licensing exams – each program boasts pass rates higher than the national average.

“TCL’s health sciences programs, all of which are nationally accredited, are vigorous and demanding but produce extremely qualified and successful graduates,” Levicki said. 

Employment in health care occupations is expected to grow 19 percent from 2014 to 2024, much faster than the average. Over this same time about 2.3 million new health care jobs will be added, more than any other group of occupations. This expected growth is due to an aging population and because of more individuals having access to health insurance, according to the U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Call 843-525-8267 for more information, or visit www.tcl.edu/pathways/health-sciences to learn more.

Flu season peaking

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Photo above: Beaufort Memorial Nurse Practioner Ronda O’Connell with patient. Photo courtesy of BMH.

By Amy Rigard

According to the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC), more than 17,000 cases of influenza have been reported in South Carolina so far this flu season, which begins in October.

The season, which typically begins in October, seems to be peaking throughout much of the country, with widespread activity reported in nearly every state and territory, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC’s weekly reporting has shown a steady increase in the number of reported flu cases in the past few weeks throughout much of the country. And South Carolina is no exception. 

For the week ending January 6, 2018, the number of flu-related reported hospitalizations in South Carolina increased by more than 87 percent compared to the previous week, according to DHEC. DHEC reports that during South Carolina’s current flu season, there have been 830 influenza-associated hospitalizations and 15 influenza-associated deaths reported. 

Dr. Kurt Gambla, Beaufort Memorial Hospital Chief Medical Officer, said that while the prevalence of the flu nationally is projected to track twice the normal rate, Beaufort Memorial Hospital is on par with last year’s flu season with about 65 cases per week. He noted that the season does seem to be coming close to peak, and the hospital has experienced an increase in the number of respiratory infections overall. 

It’s that increase in respiratory infections that prompted the hospital to impose visitor restrictions effective January 5. According to a press release issued by the hospital, adults experiencing flu-like symptoms are encouraged not to visit patients in the hospital for the immediate future. The hospital is now restricting visitors under 18 and asking the community to limit hospital visits to one visit per patient as a precaution to help prevent further spread of the flu and other viruses.

Different strains of the flu circulate each year. According to the CDC, more than 80 percent of this year’s flu cases involve the H3N2 strain. This A virus subtype H3N2 is particularly virulent, according to Gambla. H3N2 has traditionally hit people harder than other seasonal flu strains and can be especially worrisome among vulnerable populations such as the elderly and children. 

Complicating matters this season is that the flu vaccine isn’t completely effective against this particular strain. Gambla noted that formulating the flu vaccine each year is somewhat of an inexact science akin to forecasting the weather since it’s difficult to predict which flu strains will be present each year. 

Gambla noted that one of the best ways to prevent the flu is to get the flu vaccine. He noted several myths or misperceptions that are common regarding the vaccine. “The number one myth is that the flu vaccine can cause the flu,” said Gambla. “That’s not true. It’s a dead virus, so it cannot cause the flu.”

Some other myths Gambla said are not true are that people don’t need to get the vaccine every year, that it’s not safe for pregnant women, that the side effects are worse than the actual flu, and that it’s too late in the season to get the vaccine. Flu season typically extends through March but can sometimes last until May, so Gambla said there is still time to get and benefit from the flu vaccine. 

Populations most at risk for getting the flu include anyone who isn’t vaccinated, children under 5, and adults older than 65. In addition, anyone with chronic illnesses such as asthma, emphysema, heart disease, or diabetes could be at increased risk. Gambla emphasized that anyone, even healthy people with no other apparent risk factors, can get the flu and can even die from the flu. He noted, however, that many fatalities related to the flu are actually caused by pneumonia, which the flu can evolve into. 

Flu symptoms, which can include fever, cough, sore throat, runny nose, muscle aches, and fatigue are similar to cold symptoms. Gambla said that people with the flu often get a lot sicker a lot faster, and flu symptoms can last longer than symptoms associated with the common cold. Anyone who feels they are getting progressively sicker, has a high fever that won’t go away, has difficulty breathing, or develops a productive cough should seek medical treatment.

Photo courtesy of BMH.
Photo courtesy of BMH.

Is It a Cold or the Flu?

Different viruses cause the common cold and the flu – both respiratory illnesses. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), because the two have similar symptoms, it can sometimes be difficult for patients to know which they have based on the symptoms alone. Special tests can be done within the first few days of illness to determine whether an individual has the flu.

According to the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC), flu symptoms may include:

  • Sudden onset of fever
  • Chills
  • Cough
  • Headache or muscle aches
  • Tiredness
  • Sore throat
  • Nasal congestion or stuffiness
  • Some people may experience vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in children than adults

Cold symptoms are similar but are generally milder than flu symptoms and typically don’t last as long. According to DHEC, the time from exposure to the flu virus and infection to when symptoms begin is about one to four days, with an average of about two days.

Patients experiencing signs of the following should seek immediate care from the emergency department:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Chest or abdomen pain
  • Dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Severe vomiting

Those caring for sick children need to watch closely for the same symptoms. In addition, parents and caregivers should also bring their child to the emergency room if they have the following symptoms:

  • Bluish skin
  • Not waking or interacting
  • A fever with a rash

Preventing the Flu

The CDC recommends a yearly flu vaccine for individuals six months of age and older as one of the best ways to protect against flu viruses. Other preventative measures include:

  • Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
  • If possible, stay home from work, school, and errands when you are sick to help prevent the spread of germs to others.
  • If you are sick with flu-like illness, stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone except to get medical care or for other necessities.
  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze and then toss the tissue in the trash.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub. 
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that may be contaminated with germs. 
  • Practice other good health habits such as getting plenty of rest, being physically active, managing your stress, drinking plenty of fluids, and eating nutritious food.

Is there a link between the health of my teeth and my heart?

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By Dr. Stephen Durham

You probably already know that your oral health plays a big role in your overall health. However, like many people, you may not be aware of the link between poor oral hygiene and heart disease. One reason is that people with moderate to advanced gum disease have a much higher risk of developing a heart problem than someone whose gums are entirely healthy. This is a problem in itself, but it is even more worrisome that most people with gum disease do not even realize that they have it. According to the American Dental Association, this number is as high as 80 percent.

Your oral health provide clues about your heart health

It might seem hard to believe, but the condition of your teeth and gums can tell both your doctor and dentist that you are at risk of heart disease and other serious health problems. It does make sense, though, once you understand the connection. Every person’s mouth contains germs and bacteria that spreads from there to the bloodstream and to other parts of the body. Once these germs and bacteria reach your heart, they can attach themselves to any area already damaged and produce inflammation.

The Mayo Clinic states that inflammation of the heart can lead to a condition called endocarditis, which means an infection has developed in the heart’s inner lining. According to the American Heart Association, other possible diseases linked to oral bacteria include stroke and clogged arteries, formally known as atherosclerosis.

Patients who may be at risk

Men and women who already have advanced periodontal disease or chronic conditions of the gums like gingivitis have the highest risk of later developing heart disease. This is especially true when they do not receive a prompt diagnosis for these dental health conditions. Even without one of these oral health conditions, practicing poor oral hygiene increases your risk because plaque accumulates in your mouth and can travel to your bloodsteam. This can cause elevated C-reactive protein, a well-known marker for blood vessel inflammation.

Warning signs of gum disease

Not only can you possibly reverse gum disease when caught early, it can also dramatically reduce your risk of heart disease and other complications. Please contact my office for a prompt evaluation if you notice any of these symptoms:

Some of your teeth feel loose and you have no explanation for it;

Your gums appear red and/or swollen;

You feel pain when you touch your gums;

You have chronic bad breath, despite regular toothbrushing and use of mouthwash;

You notice blood on your toothbrush or in the sink after spitting when you brush your teeth;

Your gums look like they are pulling away from your teeth;

You notice signs of infection around your teeth and gums, such as leaking of pus.

Prevent Gum Disease to Prevent Heart Disease

It is much easier to prevent this problem than to treat it. That starts with brushing and flossing at least twice a day and scheduling preventive care exams twice a year. Your mouth, heart, and entire body will thank you for these efforts.

A recipient of the 2012 Mastership Award from the Academy of General Dentistry (AGD), Dr. Stephen Durham is a graduate of Clemson University and the Medical University of South Carolina College of Dental Medicine. Dr. Durham practices at Durham Dental at Town Center in Beaufort. For more information, visit www.DrStephenDurham.com or call 843-379-5400.

Sarah Dyson named BMH Foundation chairperson

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Sarah M. Dyson
Sarah M. Dyson

Sarah M. Dyson, a longtime member of the Beaufort Memorial Hospital Foundation Board of Trustees, has been named chairman of the nonprofit organization.

One of its longest-serving members, Dyson first joined the board in 2005 and went on to complete nine years of service before stepping down in 2014 at the end of her third term. A year later she was invited to rejoin the board. During her tenure, she has served as secretary and vice chairman of the board and on its investment and trustees committees. 

“Sarah understands the benefits a community hospital provides to residents and how the Foundation plays a critical role in helping the hospital meet its funding needs to offer the finest healthcare possible,” said Associate Vice President and Chief Development Officer Debbie Schuchmann. “She has a vision for the Foundation and is committed to achieving that vision.”

Dyson has been a donor and staunch supporter of the hospital since moving to Beaufort in 1996. She has offered her Lady’s Island home for a number of Foundation events, including the annual Celebration of Giving, and hosted student musicians performing in the annual Duke Symphony Orchestra fundraising concert. She also has hosted a half-dozen Valentine Ball dinner parties — one of them at the last minute to fill in for a host who became ill.

“I was an Army wife,” Dyson quipped. “I learned to be prepared for anything.”

Always civically active in the communities where she has lived, Dyson has devoted most of her energies in recent years to helping the YMCA of Beaufort County, Friends of the Beaufort County Library and the Beaufort Memorial Hospital Foundation.

“I became interested in Beaufort Memorial after seeing the care my in-laws received at the hospital over the years,” she said. “That’s what people remember — the person who took an extra two minutes to make them feel they’re not just a number.” 

Dyson will serve two years as chairman, taking the post vacated by Hugh Gouldthorpe. 

“I have some tough acts to follow,” Dyson said. “But I’m very optimistic this community will continue to rally behind our hospital. Whether you give $5 or $5 million, we welcome the support.”  

Beaufort Memorial launches BMH Care Anywhere virtual visits

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If you’re looking for a faster, easier way to see a doctor this cold and flu season Beaufort Memorial has launched BMH Care Anywhere, a new service that provides access to online video visits whenever and wherever you need them.

Video visits can be held anytime on a smartphone or tablet using the BMH Care Anywhere app, or a computer equipped with a camera and internet service. It’s simple to use, private and secure. Enrollment is free and the cost per visit is $59. 

“We are excited to be able to offer this service to our community, particularly during such a critical cold and flu season,” said BMH President and CEO Russell Baxley, MHA. “The ability to initiate a virtual visit from home or work on your own schedule, based on your needs, means faster care and more convenience. At the end of the day that’s what is best for patients, and that’s our mission as the community’s healthcare provider.”

Virtual visits are ideal for non-emergencies and minor illnesses like colds and flu, sore throat, allergies, rashes, pink eye and other infections. Services are provided by both board-certified BMH doctors and physician assistants, and an online care group of providers. 

To learn more about the service or to enroll visit www.bmhcareanywhere.org or download the BMH Care Anywhere app.

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