Bronx community health center keeps patients safe with new measures
Like many local businesses in the Bronx, a community health center was forced to rework its ways to make sure it keeps its patients safe.
Urban Health Plan is a nonprofit that runs community health centers such as El Nuevo San Juan Health Center.
"We thrive on visits coming through our doors and at the same time we realize that we could not have visits coming through our doors,” says Paloma Hernandez, president and CEO of Urban Health Plan.
When the coronavirus pandemic hit, Hernandez and her team shifted to telehealth visits and told patients to only come in for emergencies.
"Community health centers are very resilient, we do exist on very thin margins,” says Hernandez.
Those thin margins rely greatly on the revenue from preventative health care doctors' appointments--some of which took place virtually.
Now, they’re welcoming patients back into the center, slowly.
"The trick is really balancing your in-person visits and telehealth visits and hopefully being able to stay afloat that way,” says Hernandez.
She says they received federal relief funding but had to furlough about 300 employees during the pandemic.
Now, they’re having to re-invent how they see patients and keep everyone safe.
Anyone who walks through the door at the center must have a mask and their temperature must be taken. Waiting room chairs are also placed socially distant, Plexiglas has been added and capacity is limited.
They say that they hope to have outdoor tents for COVID-19 and antibody testing in the next few weeks.
"Health centers are a proven model of high quality, cost effective primary care. In addition to emergency relief, long-term reauthorization of the Community Health Center Fund and health center workforce programs is essential to help ensure that community health centers in urban and rural locations all across the nation can remain available for all,” said President and CEO of the RCHN Community Health Foundation Feygele Jacobs in a statement.