By Wael S. Mourad, MD, MHCM, FAAFP, Family Physician and Chief Health Officer, Health Partnership Clinic
As a community health center, Health Partnership Clinic is on the front lines of providing quality, affordable and accessible health care. During a global pandemic, like we are seeing with COVID-19, our role and responsibilities intensify. We are balancing the need to continue to treat our established patients with their chronic diseases and well care maintenance with patients who are experiencing a wide variety of symptoms causing illnesses—from the common cold to influenza and even COVID-19.
During this outbreak, our primary role is to quickly identify patients who are potentially “Patients Under Investigation” (PUI), and to notify the proper state and local public health authorities for further instructions. We have implemented several protocols to balance risk mitigation for our staff and patients.
Here’s what we are doing to protect both our patients and staff:
- We are actively screening all individuals coming into our clinics who have certain symptoms, such as trouble breathing/shortness of breath (new or worsening), fever (100.4 or higher), cough (new or worsening) and sore throat and/or runny nose.
- We are instructing patients who are exhibiting symptoms, before entering our doors, to call our COVID-19 dedicated phone line at 913-276-7012. A member of our team will discuss next steps.
- If we suspect a patient has the coronavirus, the person is given a mask and escorted to a dedicated COVID-19 closed room. Staff are exercising universal precautions including wearing a gown, gloves, eye protection and mask. This room is only for the patient.
- We also encourage patients to call us at 913-276-7012 before they leave home to come to the clinic, or if they have any questions about COVID-19.
- We continue to maintain high standards for sanitation throughout the clinic, including exam rooms and high-touch, high-traffic areas and frequent hand washing by staff. We encourage you and your family to wash your hands frequently and thoroughly.
- Hand sanitizer is available throughout the clinic.
- We have implemented new visitor restrictions:
- No visitors, including sibling visitors. Please have your family/friends stay in their car or at home.
- Pediatric patients may only have one parent/guardian.
- Parents/guardians must be free of respiratory symptoms and fever to be in the clinic.
- If you or your child has a mild illness and you feel comfortable managing them with supportive care measures at home, please do so.
- Avoid the ER. Emergency rooms are not going to perform on-demand COVID-19. So, unless you are having a real emergency, please avoid them. Overburdening our hospitals and exposing yourself to sick people due to anxiety of COVID-19 is not wise.
- Prevention is key. There is currently no vaccine to prevent COVID-19. The best way to prevent illnesses is to avoid spreading the virus and to avoid being exposed to the virus. The virus is thought to be spread between people who are within about six feet of each other for at least 10 minutes through droplets from coughing and sneezing. Here’s how you can reduce your risk:
- Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol.
- Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Stay home if you are sick.
- Cover coughs and sneezes.
- Clean and disinfect surfaces daily.
Our mission is to serve our communities to the best of our abilities, and our providers and staff stand ready for this ever-changing challenge we face. We take the health of the community very seriously and are committed to being able to help the most vulnerable.
If you have questions about COVID-19, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website or the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) website.