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(from Arizona Republic via http://arizonarepublic.az.newsmemory.com/?publink=0565987fb - read the FULL UNABRIDGED VERSION on the FastMed site HERE)
A disturbing view from health care’s frontline
Arizona Republic guest columnist, Web Golinkin
When I co-founded RediClinic in 2005 as one of the first companies to open health care clinics inside retail outlets, it was based on two fundamental ideas: Many people needed easier access to affordable, routine health care; and our nation needed a retail health care infrastructure that would provide such access not only to acute/ episodic care but also to the kinds of preventive care that hospitals are illequipped to deliver. Fifteen years later, and thanks to the efforts of many retail health care pioneers, our nation’s health care system has such an infrastructure in the form of more than 10,000 freestanding urgent care and retailer-based walk-in clinics. This infrastructure can and must be an essential part of any effective response to the current coronavirus pandemic, but it is in the process of being overwhelmed.
Today, I am the CEO of FastMed, a company that operates 109 urgent care clinics in North Carolina, Arizona and Texas. These clinics are staffed primarily by nurse practitioners, physician assistants and other health care professionals. They are highly trained individuals who have dedicated their lives to helping people in need, in spite of being exposed to many illnesses on a daily basis, including but not limited to COVID- 19. But they now have been put in a no-win position with significant obstacles placed in their path, both at work and at home.
At work, these brave and dedicated health care professionals are being overwhelmed by thousands of people who think they might be infected and want to be tested. The problem is that most are not members of high-risk groups, while our company barely has enough COVID-19 tests for our own employees and can’t get enough personal protective equipment to protect them from exposure and likely infection themselves. The result is that many of our frontline workers may ultimately have to be quarantined, progressively reducing our company’s ability to play a key role in managing the crisis. FastMed is not alone, as most other urgent care and retail medicine providers face the same diagnostic test and protective equipment shortages.
At home, thanks to almost universal school closures, many of our frontline health care workers face significant childcare issues. Some are members of dual-income families where neither parent is available to take care of their children during the daytime, and many of these workers lack the financial resources to outsource day care even if it is available, which frequently it is not. Because of these school closures, they are also being asked to take a much more active role in the education of their children, which most of us are ill-prepared to do. The bottom line is that we are basically asking our frontline health care workers to choose between their jobs and their families, and some of them will justifiably choose the latter. This, in addition to the likelihood of an increased number of quarantined workers mentioned above, may ultimately cause the entire frontline health care infrastructure to collapse. If that happens, the predictions that hospitals could quickly be overwhelmed will most certainly be realized.
Federal and state officials must take a more surgical approach to combat the coronavirus pandemic. We must prioritize our containment efforts and resources while simultaneously doing everything possible to ensure that the public at large understands and is practicing the kinds of health promoting measures that may well have been the most effective byproduct of the containment strategy to date.
Most importantly, we must support our frontline health care workers in every way that enables them to stay on the job and maintain their own health in order to ensure that they are available to help us maintain ours.
Web Golinkin is the chief executive officer of FastMed Urgent Care.
Web Golinkin Guest columnist
Urgent Care Association
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