The staff at Community Health Rutland have set up outdoor tents to screen patients who are coming to the clinic off of Stratton Road.
Dr. Teddi Lovko, associate medical director of Community Health Rutland, which is part of the Community Health organization, said the screening was “basically a triage” to isolate people who potentially have COVID-19 caused by the novel coronavirus to keep them from spreading it to others who are coming to the clinic for chronic care or routine care.
“The emphasis for the test is, keep sick people segregated from well people,” she said.
The screening process also protects staff and maximize the efficiency of using protective gear, Lovko added, which also has been in short supply at times.
A similar system was activated at Community Health’s Castleton site, Community Health Castleton, on Friday. The Rutland site began operation on Tuesday.
A smaller screening site is in use across from Community Health Rutland at Community Health Pediatrics. Lovko said the process at Community Health Rutland was larger because it was more of a walk-in clinic so there are more patients to screen.
Patients are screened during the process, but the actual test for COVID-19 is only possible as available by the state, which is currently extremely limited and the criteria for testing is extremely stringent, Lovko added.
For the typical visit, the patient will drive up to a tent in the parking lot of Community Health Rutland and explain to the care provider why they are there. If the patient is not complaining of COVID-like illness, the provider will ask a series of questions to determine if the patient is sick or in a high-risk group.
If not, the patient is given a ticket, enters the clinic and sees a care provider as normal.
If the patient is sick with a respiratory illness, he or she will be sent to a second tent behind the clinic for evaluation.
With the screening in place, the clinic now has a process to admit appropriate patents while keeping them apart from potential carriers of COVID-19.
“We’ve really been able to keep most of our function going,” Lovko said.
The screenings at the tent are currently being done by care providers, such as physicians, nurse practitioners and physicians assistants, but Lovko said the system may evolve.
As of Friday, the screening system is expected to be in place until further notice.
Lovko pointed out the second test area is heated and has equipment to perform some medical testing. She said the equipment gives the clinic a “lot of flexibility” to respond to other changes that may arise.
“We’ve got a system now that we can expand or shrink. … We can do it as long as we need to and we can expand pretty easily if we need to bring more providers out here,” she said.
Getting the screening process in place from idea to execution took about a week, according to Lovko.
“It was fast. We had a lot of great coordinating together to get it up and going,” she said.
Lovko said she didn’t have the numbers of people who had passed through the screening immediately available but said the number of patients coming to the clinic was lower than usual.
Patients are self-isolating, the doctor speculated, but she said the clinic’s next step was expected to be an expansion of the use of telemedicine services within two weeks.
While Lovko said she understood the process could look intimidating with orange traffic cones in the lot, signs in the road and providers in protective gear, she said most people, once they understand the reason and nature of the screening process, seem to appreciate how seriously Community Health is taking their efforts to contribute toward “flattening the curve” of the spread of COVID-19.The screening process takes place from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day of the week.
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