MUSC helps businesses reopen safely during pandemic

June 09, 2020
Dr. Lacey MenkinSmith, Aynsley Birkner, Tara Torres and Richard Tesen listen to Kiawah Island Club sports and recreation director Kevin Lafountain. General manager Scott Dawson is at right.
Members of the MUSC Back2Business team listen to Kevin Lafountain of the Kiawah Island Club describe safety measures the club is taking. General manager Scott Dawson listens to his right. Photos by Sarah Pack

Scott Dawson, general manager of the Kiawah Island Club on South Carolina’s coast, knows members are eager to get back to using more of the club's high-end facilities, amenities and services at the full operating capacity they’re used to. So he’s thrilled to see public health experts from MUSC Health’s Back2Business program arrive to help him figure out how to reopen as safely as possible amid the coronavirus outbreak.

They meet with Dawson in a restaurant at the Kiawah Island Beach Club that overlooks three swimming pools and the ocean. Lacey MenkinSmith, M.D., introduces the MUSC Health team. “I think this is a great opportunity for us to offer guidance so things happen in the safest way possible,” she tells Dawson. 

“Super. That’s exactly what we want,” he answers.

Kiawah Island Club is among the early participants in Back2Business, part of the Medical University of South Carolina’s effort to help revitalize the state’s economy.  

MUSC quality clinical analyst Tara Torres, left, and Dr. Lacey MenkinSmith take notes. 
Clinical quality analyst Tara Torres, left, and Dr. Lacey MenkinSmith of MUSC Health take notes as the general manager of the Kiawah Island Club discusses what's being done to get the place ready to safely reopen after closing for the coronavirus pandemic.

Back2Business’ leader, Edward O’Bryan, is an emergency medicine doctor who also serves as executive director of MUSC Health Solutions and chief medical officer of Business Health. He has both a medical degree and a Master of Business Administration.

“A medical issue is causing the entire economic meltdown that’s put us in a situation where we’re as close to the Great Depression as we’ve been since the 1930s. That’s why the medical community is well-suited to discuss this. The medical community is going to be key in reopening the economy, allowing natural economic forces to resume their normal structure,” O’Bryan said. “I think people are saying, ‘The coronavirus is bad, but what we’re doing to the economy is also very bad.'”

O’Bryan and his team have pitched in during public health crises in the past, including Ebola in Uganda, through the MUSC Center for Global Health. “We’re used to dealing with outbreaks and trying to mitigate both financial consequences and public perception,” he said. 

MUSC has played a leading role from the coronavirus pandemic’s early days in South Carolina, working with state leaders to quickly ramp up testing with the help of free online screening through MUSC Health. MUSC is also doing COVID-19 research to try to find effective treatments and performed the Lowcountry’s first plasma transfusion on a coronavirus patient. And MUSC President David Cole, M.D., is on the governor’s COVID-19 advisory team, accelerateSC, offering a medical perspective on ways to make it safe for people to go to work and return to public places such as stores and restaurants.

Back2Business is designed for companies and local governments that want an extra level of customization when it comes to coronavirus safety. It doesn’t supersede existing regulations from agencies such as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. It’s a layer on top of that for employers interested in having MUSC experts work closely with managers to do in-depth inspections, analyses and consultations as the pandemic continues. 

Scott Dawson, right, and Kevin Lafountain talk with Aynsley Birkner and Dr. Lacey MenkinSmith. 
Kiawah Island Club general manager Scott Dawson, far right, and Kevin Lafountain talk with Aynsley Birkner and Dr. Lacey MenkinSmith of the Back2Business team.

Employers that take the necessary steps to protect employees and the public from the coronavirus earn a certificate of completion from MUSC that they can display. The cost is low and funds generated go toward staffing so other businesses can benefit as well, O’Bryan said.

“MUSC is uniquely situated to offer these services, because we’re the premier academic health system in South Carolina. We’re the only system to have developed our own COVID testing early on. We have extremely high capacity for testing. We also have public health and epidemiology academic departments. Things that other hospitals don’t have.”

MUSC’s public health experts have already honed their COVID safety skills at MUSC Health’s multiple campuses, carefully inspecting them and putting into place new protocols to protect health care providers and patients. “MUSC is a safe place to come now, so we’re trying to make sure people’s health care needs are met before they go back to work. If they need surgery, for example, we are ready,” O’Bryan said.

Now, it’s on to other sites. “Phase one, for us, is targeting individual businesses and municipalities to give them the right mechanisms for ensuring the safety of their clients as well as their employees,” O’Bryan said. “We do ongoing maintenance as recommendations change, as public policy changes.”

Back at Kiawah, MenkinSmith tells Dawson what her team of assessors is about to do, starting in the Beach Club, which has dining, swimming and beach access. “We have backgrounds in public health and medicine. We look at three different components. First, we look at the physical environment. We can make recommendations about, ‘Move this here,’ or, ‘Put a hand sanitizer here,’” she said. 

“We also are going to look at the employees’ workflow and customer workflow and make suggestions for ways to adapt that to increase safety,” MenkinSmith said. “And then, as part of the whole assessment of the club in general, we have the ability to do active coronavirus and coronavirus antibody testing and helping you interpret what the results mean. 

“We’ll also do risk assessments for employees and make recommendations based on those assessments and the workflow analysis — what type of PPE people should be wearing and when they should be wearing it,” she said, referring to personal protective equipment.

One upcoming date Dawson and his team have their eyes on: the Fourth of July, when typically, about 1,500 people will walk through the door of the Beach Club. They want to make sure Independence Day will be worry-free for members and their guests as well as employees. 

O’Bryan said the MUSC team can help make that happen, not just for the Kiawah Island Club but for other businesses and facilities across the state as the year goes on. “People trust that MUSC can put the best public health practices in place because we’ve done it at our hospital, and we’re the ones taking care of actual patients of the disease. Having MUSC go and evaluate and put the seal of approval on these businesses is a key part of restoring customer ease, comfort and satisfaction so they’ll go out, revitalize the economy and restore jobs.”

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