Every little bit helps.
As the local economy continues to tread water, McDuffie Regional Medical Center found itself in the enviable position of receiving good financial news recently when hospital officials were informed that MRMC was the recipient of around $18,000 from the Health, Resource and Service Administration in the form of a bioterrorism grant.
The award was "designed to increase each community's readiness for bioterrorism attacks or infectious disease outbreaks," according to an HRSA statement.
MRMC CEO Doug Keir said that the money had to be earmarked for bioterrorism-related equipment, a stipulation of the grant program.
"We are purchasing personal, protective equipment which would include six biohazard suits and battery packs for them," he said. "It was nice, because obviously we would have had to come up with hospital funds or from some other source. This was a nice thing."
The amount of the grant was determined by the number of yearly emergency room visits and ambulances per hospital. MRMC received $16,000 based on its 11,354 ER visits last year and $2,400 based on its six ambulances.
Chief Spokesperson for the East Central Health District Emmitt Walker said that the grant program was developed simply to give local hospitals the opportunity to become more prepared in case of a bioterrorism attack or an epidemic outbreak.
"Bioterrorism encompasses everything from weapons of mass destruction such as agents like small pox, to chemical attacks such as nerve gas," he said. "The whole purpose of this was to basically support hospitals as well as other collaborative entities in their efforts to be more BT prepared."
Mr. Walker went on to say that having the proper equipment during an attack or an outbreak is extremely important. He said that there are a number of questions that need to be asked when assessing a hospital's emergency preparedness with regards to bioterrorism.
"If there was a biological attack involving something like a nerve gas, would workers have the necessary equipment to perhaps investigate a nerve gas agent? With ambulance drivers, would they also have the necessary equipment if they were to investigate, again, a chemical agent?"
With the grant award, hospital officials hope they will be able to answer those types of questions even more affirmatively in the future.