As the summer of 2020 boils away, we are also a week or two from the statistical height of hurricane season. The coronavirus is still largely out of control, with the economic fallout holding us in a stubborn recession.

Jobs disappeared as businesses closed. With job loss, there is often a loss of health insurance. 

As a nation, as a culture, we were struggling. Do our children return to school in person and risk exposure to the relentless pandemic, or do they have virtual school? The variety of choices is daunting, even for those of us who have adequate Wi-Fi and childcare, and don’t depend on schools to provide some morning and midday nutrition while parents are working.

The fact is: What we might consider the “new normal” is actually extraordinary and in no way “normal” other than that we demonstrate, once again, that our nation, our culture, has “resiliency.” We have placed safeguards and backstops to prevent would-be catastrophes from overwhelming us.

An example: Almost 11 years ago, forward-looking members of the South Carolina legislature, largely members of the Beaufort-Jasper Legislative Delegation, came up with a plan to create a telemedicine system based at the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC). This capability was initially envisioned to provide online or virtual medical services involving uncomplicated treatments for a state that was poor and largely rural.

As it evolved, the MUSC Health System became a place where everyone could access the world-class physicians and therapists at MUSC, online or by smart phone, 24/7. Patients would be interviewed about symptoms, even able to submit photos to doctors of areas of concern.

With the emergence of the coronavirus, the system was perfectly geared to address the pandemic. No taking sick children to sit for hours with other sick folks waiting to see the family physician. In an age of quarantine, we could seek expert medical advice without venturing out. People could speak with experts about everything from UTIs to head lice, all from home, without breaking quarantine.

For years, my youngest child, Eliza, suffered significant headaches. Using the MUSC Telemedicine System, she was interviewed by neurologists and other specialists for over half an hour. They suggested, among other things, vitamin B12 and more consistent hydration. Eliza complied, and her headaches have largely subsided.

A small aside as to how we developed intentional “resiliency” without using the word. When the telemedicine infrastructure dollars were before House Ways and Means Committee, the Chairman of Health and Human Services Subcommittee at that time (who will remain unnamed), was adamant that $2 million for telemedicine infrastructure for MUSC was not going into the final budget. Members of our delegation objected strenuously. The argument, at that time, was equal protection under the law.

There was unpleasantness, although no shots were fired, no canes brandished, and all were eventually reconciled, to a degree. The $2 million for MUSC Telemedicine was approved out of committee and the final budget passed eventually by both House and Senate, and signed into law.

The $2 million was well spent by MUSC. In fact, its telemedicine program is one of only two, nationwide, granted the sanction of the National Telemedicine Center for Excellence.

This is where intentional “resiliency” for South Carolina health care began.

Weston Newton is the representative for District 120 in the State House of Representatives.