Federally Qualified Health Centers have a unique role in this pandemic. As medical homes for low-income community members, our waiting areas are normally full of patients presenting with everything from chronic disease monitoring to routine physicals to dental fillings. Prevention is always paramount. Now, we must work even harder to prevent individuals from occupying emergency rooms. And perhaps more challenging, we must find ways to continue to provide life-saving preventative care, while at the same time prevent the spread of the virus by encouraging patients to stay at home and use telehealth for non-emergency health concerns.
This challenge has had many consequences: a nearly complete overhaul of operations; a re-thinking of our finances; re-imagined community and patient engagement and messaging; new safety standards for our staff; creative means to keep clinics open and staff employed; and a new model of serving our patients.
Early on, Via Care’s clinical leadership followed the initial spread of the virus overseas and understood the rapidity of its potential spread here in the U.S., and the severe impact it could have on our low-income communities. Thus, we responded promptly. Via Care had its first all-staff training on COVID-19 on February 7th,weeks ahead of other community partners. Early discussion allowed us to concretely plan for the changes that would eventually take place. Today we started our 7th week of telephonic and 3rd week of telemedicine.
Already over two months since the first serious COVID-19 warnings, we can look back and see that we did many things right, and still have a lot to learn as we know this situation has no silver bullet. With this weekly update we hope to convey some of those lessons learned from an on-the-ground, FQHC perspective. We look forward to sharing our experiences around emergency preparedness, moving to telehealth, keeping our clinics (and doors) open, serving our undocumented patients, keeping our workforce strong, and the ways in which we continue to serve and engage with our community.
We intend to send out a weekly update on behalf of the work we do. We do believe that we are all in this together. Thank you for your interest in Via Care and the critical role of FQHCs during this pandemic.
Deborah Villar, CEO
Via Care Community Health Center
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