MUSC Health-Orangeburg is working to improve the health care culture at the hospital, according to hospital’s chief executive.

“We definitely need to change our culture here in the hospital. We are offering additional classes on just culture. We are offering classes on how to treat a patient you come into contact with, warm greetings with patients and family members,” CEO Walter Bennett told the hospital’s Community Advisory Board during its quarterly meeting.

“We are having accountability sessions with our leaders on how to actually run a business,” Bennett continued. “Every department is their own business.”

Bennett said hospital departments are now working together with similar goals and are “finding a way on how to turn this ship” and “moving past the perception the community has had in the past for MUSC Health-Orangeburg.”

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The hospital has a new emergency strategy team that meets weekly on reducing emergency department wait times and throughputs.

“We discuss patient engagement scores, we discuss the culture of our ED staff, we discuss throughputs,” Bennett said. “We have made great strides with regards to our engagement scores.”

MUSC Health-Orangeburg celebrated the official grand opening on Friday of a new orthopedics urgent care center and practice located in the hospital’s annex building.

Bennett said when he arrived at the hospital about five months ago, patient engagement scores were in the 20s.

“This was very shocking for me,” Bennett said. “I was like ‘I know EDs can be a little bad sometimes, but having scored patient engagement scores in the 20s was new to me.’”

The Orangeburg Area Sickle Cell Foundation held its awareness walk at Centennial Park in the Edisto Memorial Gardens last month, with approximately 200 people participating.

As of Nov. 15, scores are at 49 percent.

“Our goal is to continue to improve when it comes to patient engagement,” Bennett said.

Bennett said the hospital is trying to direct individuals to Doctor’s Care to help take the burden off the emergency room.

A part of this effort is going to be a marketing program that aims to inform the public about when they should use primary care, urgent care and the emergency room, as well as telemedicine. Bennett said telemedicine opportunities will be in full swing, most likely after the first of the year.

The hospital has been working to improve community relations through outreach at town hall, government and civic club meetings and health fair events.

Bennett said the hospital is also looking to hold a health literacy and education event, most likely in April.

The hospital is also working to improve its finances.

Bennett said the hospital is taking steps to reduce its reliance on costly travel or contract nurses in an effort to reduce expenses.

“We are doing fairly well financially right now,” Bennett said. “We keep the pulse and we keep the eyes on everything that is going on from a financial standpoint here in the hospital.”

“In order to reduce travel nurses, we have to attract more nurses for those permanent positions,” Bennett said. “We are working towards gaining more permanent nurses.”

The hospital held virtual and in-person recruitment events to bring more nurses to the hospital.

Some other recent highlights of the hospital include:

• Celebrated its 100th percutaneous coronary intervention procedure. This cardiac intervention opens blocked arteries. Previously, patients were sent to Charleston or Columbia for the procedure.

• Received several state awards for zero harm in surgical site infections in knee replacements, workplace violence, central line-associated bloodstream infections and suicides.

• The creation of a new care team member engagement council to recognize and reward hospital care team members for jobs well done.

• A “Turning the Tide – Violence Intervention Program” is focused on providing victims of gun violence with more resources. The program started in October.

Kathy Booker, external affairs and strategic engagement manager at the hospital, said there will be efforts to help strengthen CAB’s relationship with the hospital and the MUSC Health System as a whole.

The CAB does not have governance power or authority related to the hospital, but provides recommendations to MUSC leadership.

Booker said CAB has been quite active in working with the hospital in getting its message out to the community through various outreach events.

“We can only do so much with the time we have, but this is just an example of how CAB is important to MUSC Health,” Booker said. “We look to do more.”

Contact the writer: or 803-533-5551. Check out Zaleski on Twitter at @ZaleskiTD.

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