By: Chad Felton
The Lake County Free Clinic announced that, like many community agencies across Northeast Ohio, it has amended some of its care and public policies following the established guidelines of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Ohio District of Health and the Lake County General Health District.
While the clinic will continue providing “essential appointments for uninsured and underinsured patients,” several steps have been taken, operationally, to ensure all are protected during the novel coronavirus pandemic.
“This is a fluid and rapidly changing situation,” said the clinic’s Executive Director Marty Hiller. “Patients may experience care differently during these difficult times, but our priority is to remain proactive and ensure the safety of our patients, volunteers and staff while continuing to give health to patients who are in need of vital care.”
With the first cases of COVID-19 infection being reported in Lake County last week, Hiller added the clinic is strongly encouraging patients to call before arriving for a scheduled appointment.
“We are limiting in-office visits to those needing essential care or to pick up medications, and utilizing telemedicine to meet their needs,” he said. “Heightened screenings prior to visits have also been established during the outbreak.”
Instructions on procedures for pickups will be explained during calls.
The clinic is also requesting that patients who have an appointment come to the office alone in order to minimize risk. Family members or those transporting a patient are being respectfully asked to remain outside the clinic facility.
The clinic will continue responding to telephone queries for scheduling appointments and general information however no walk-in patients are being accepted. Contact must first be initiated by calling 440-352-8686.
Patients with fever, chills, cough, shortness of breath or body aches are asked to call before coming to the clinic for their scheduled visits.
“Many of our patients are facing chronic conditions like diabetes and high blood pressure, which puts them at a higher risk for other health issues,” Hiller said. “We will continue to see patients in the office if their conditions warrant an in-person visit, but our focus will be on keeping them, along with the community, safe by limiting their need to venture out.
“Taking appropriate precautions is of the utmost importance. Please, stay home unless leaving your home is absolutely necessary. Make sure to wash your hands thoroughly, rest, stay hydrated and trust that everyone who plays a role in northeast Ohio’s healthcare safety net is working to keep our communities safe and healthy.”
As free clinics are not federally funded entities, they are not recipients of emergency money distributed to prevent, prepare for and/or respond to coronavirus, a fact Hiller said many people may not be aware of.
“Trying to find the right balance between safety and access, that’s the reason for the shift in our model of operation, but, as you can imagine, this pandemic is also impacting our budget,” he added. “We are struggling and we ask the community to help however they can as COVID-19 has lessened our revenue stream.
“We’re fighting while trying to serve, and we’ll remain solid for a few weeks, but if this persists, we may have to ratchet down what services we can provide. That’s just a fact.”
According to the Hiller, on average, every $1 donated to Lake County Free Clinic provides more than $10 in market-value care.
“Free clinics are a reflection of the value a community places on the health of its residents, and the community’s generosity is what makes that care happen, especially in times like this,” he said. “The health of the entire community is dependent on the actions we choose to take today.”
The clinic’s Facebook page is updated daily with the most current information regarding COVID-19.
The clinic will be open for limited access on Tuesdays and Fridays.
For more information, visit www.lakefreeclinic.org.
By: Chad Felton