It has been a busy couple of months in South Carolina. The state as well as the nation has seen its fair share of drama. From the Ebola outbreak in Dallas, to the House Speaker’s indictment in the State House, it has obviously not been a quiet summer.
I can’t read anything in the news or open any type of newspaper without seeing a story on Ebola. Recently, there have been a lot of opinions on how fast the virus can spread, where it’s coming from, and who is going to stop it. Folks are starting to panic.
I decided to hold a Senate Medical Affairs Committee hearing on Ebola. I invited Catherine Templeton, director of the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control, and Thornton Kirby, president and CEO of the South Carolina Hospital Association, to speak on how prepared the state is to handle an Ebola outbreak.
It is important to understand what Ebola actually is. It is a virus and can be transmitted from person to person through direct contact or broken skin with blood or bodily fluids from a person who is infected. It can also be transmitted by contact with objects or surfaces contaminated with the virus that have not been properly disinfected.
While the experts assured us that there are no cases of Ebola in South Carolina, it is still important to educate our constituents on matters of health. The committee was assured that if an outbreak were to happen in South Carolina, every hospital, rural and metropolitan area could quarantine the virus.
My fellow senators asked great questions about the virus. One question that was answered is do the doctors know who in their communities are missionaries and might be traveling to some of these places that have seen outbreaks? This question was answered, encouraging the members that the hospital is taking extra cautionary notes on any people with Ebola like symptoms who enter their facilities. It is important that everybody takes this situation seriously.
I have always believed it is better to be proactive than reactive. The purpose of this meeting was not to scare the residents of the state, but rather give them the information needed to fight this virus, in the case of an outbreak. I believe this meeting was well received by the senators, staff and the public.
After the initial scare of Ebola in September, I thought it would be a quiet end to the year. I was wrong. The House Speaker Bobby Harrell was indicted on nine counts of criminal charges of misconduct in the office, using campaign funds for personal use and false reporting of candidate campaign disclosures.
Harrell plead guilty to six counts of use of campaign funds for personal expense. Along with his plea, he is to not seek or hold office for three years. He also has to pay $30,000 in fines plus an additional $93,958 to the general fund of South Carolina. Harrell has agreed to be cooperative in any further investigations or trials. It has been a long journey to unveil the truth of Harrell’s wrongdoings. If we ever need an ethics bill it is now.
I will repeat myself: we need an ethics bill, and I need you as constituents to make your voice heard on that. Call your friends and family who don’t live close by, and tell them to demand it, too. The biggest excuse for people not wanting to act on ethics reform is that they’re not hearing about it from the folks back home. Well, let’s change that. I’ve heard you loud and clear on ethics reform, and we need to make sure other Senators are hearing about it as well.
I am excited to get back to Columbia and work hard this session. I think it will be an exciting time in South Carolina. We have had a successful off-season and I am looking forward to working with my fellow legislators in January.
Sen. Harvey S. Peeler Jr. represents District 14, which includes York County. He is chairman of the Senate Medical Affairs Committee. He can be reached at 803-212-6430.