Richland County will collaborate with Prisma Health to augment a developing strategy to reopen County facilities to the public and nonessential employees, taking another major step in helping the community recover from the COVID-19 health crisis.
“Forming a partnership with a major health care provider that knows the local community is extremely important as we explore best practices to reopen County facilities,” said County Council Chair Paul Livingston. “As we continue to listen to medical professionals, the business community and residents to meet the needs of the entire community, the expertise and insight from Prisma Health will be invaluable.”
No date is set to reopen County facilities.
“Having a partner like Prisma Health is critical for informing our decisions as we develop a plan to reopen,” County Administrator Leonardo Brown said. “County Council has made it clear we must do all we can to help residents access government services and support employees doing the work.”
In close consultation with County Council, the County’s administrative staff is drafting policies and procedures to reopen County facilities with appropriate safeguards in place. The collaboration with Prisma Health will focus on three key areas:
- Reopening protocols, to include analyzing infection rate data
- Securing personal protective equipment for specific personnel
- Establishing screening procedures for employees and visitors to County facilities
“At Prisma Health, we believe that collaboration with local governmental agencies makes our communities stronger and helps foster the best health outcomes, whether it’s during these unusual pandemic times or during our outreach to the community to improve their access to health care,” said Mark O’Halla, chief executive officer.
“We are proud to work with Richland County to share our health care team’s expertise to help develop strategies that meet the needs of the County and the community. By standing together, we all stand stronger,” O’Halla said.
Prisma Health already has a partnership with the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control to provide community screening at locations throughout South Carolina for COVID-19, the highly contagious respiratory disease. The health provider’s role as a local expert in the pandemic response is vital as Richland County finalizes its reopening strategy.
A committee of Richland County personnel is assisting the administrative staff in drafting a strategy for the County to reopen facilities and bring nonessential staff back to the workplace. The committee is considering a multi-phased plan that would stagger schedules for employees returning to the workplace and limit the number of employees on-site at one time.
Richland County employs more than 2,000 full- and part-time employees who work at facilities throughout the County.
While County offices have been closed to the public and nonessential staff since mid-March, staff in a variety of departments have been working to ensure the operation of essential functions, such as emergency services, road projects, trash collection and utilities.
In addition, many services provided by the County are accessible online, by phone, fax or through the mail. When government offices reopen, these alternatives for doing business with the County will continue to be encouraged. Until further notice, the County also will continue to hold virtual public meetings to limit in-person interaction and help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
In addition to the partnership with Prisma Health, Richland County Council has approved several efforts to help the community recover from the economic downturn caused by the public health crisis.
The County dedicated $500,000 in grants for small businesses, $500,000 to address food insecurity for seniors and low- to moderate-income households and $250,000 for nonprofits to address other community needs, such as rent and utilities.
“While Richland County offices have been closed to the public, County Council, other elected officials, employees and our community partners have been doing great work to keep Richland County moving through this unprecedented health crisis,” Brown said. “I’m encouraged by everyone’s efforts and look forward to working with Prisma Health to take next steps to fully reopening County government.”
About Prisma Health
Prisma Health is a not-for-profit health company and the largest health care system in South Carolina. With nearly 30,000 team members, 18 hospitals, 2,984 beds and more than 300 physician practice sites, Prisma Health serves more than 1.2 million unique patients annually. Its goal is to improve the health of all South Carolinians by enhancing clinical quality, the patient experience and access to affordable care, as well as conducting clinical research and training the next generation of medical professionals. For more information, visit PrismaHealth.org.