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West Orange Times & Observer Wednesday, Apr. 15, 2020 3 months ago

Community Health Centers adapts to COVID-19 world

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Community Health Centers is adapting its services so it can continue to serve its patients during the COVID-19 pandemic.
by: Tim Freed Managing Editor

Community Health Centers is on a mission to provide primary health care services to insured, uninsured, underinsured and underserved children and adults — despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

The private, not-for-profit organization has new precautions in place, screening team members and patients for cough, fever and respiratory issues before they can enter facilities to keep everyone safe.

Community Health Centers also has been adjusting some of its services, suspending general dental services such as cleanings and checkups and instead providing emergency dental for adults full-time. That includes urgent issues such as swelling, infections and pain.

“Even though our dental services have been limited by orders, we are reaching out to our partners in the community to hopefully take some of the burden out of the emergency rooms of those dental emergencies that might present (themselves) there to free them up to care for patients needing other emergency care,” President and CEO Debbie Andree said.

Community Health Centers currently offers telehealth services related to behavioral health, but additional services over the phone pertaining to family medicine and pediatrics soon will be provided.

“We’ve been adapting rapidly, and it’s ever-changing as we try to continue to meet the needs of our patients,” Andree said.

“We are continuing to see well visits … we want everyone to have preventative care so that they don’t end up with an unanticipated illness due to delay of medical care,” she said. “We understand that the care we provide is essential medical care, and to the best of our ability we’re still offering that at our 13 locations in Orange County.”

John Riordan, director of marketing and community relations, said Community Health Centers is pushing its free mail-order service for prescriptions patients might need while also extending their refills to 90 days so they have a good supply. It’s a similar approach to the optometry services — glasses and frames are being mailed at no cost.

Hours for the facilities haven’t changed, but there has been an uptick in patients not showing up for previously scheduled appointments, specifically after Orange County’s stay-at-home executive order began March 26, Riordan said.

“It’s impacted us quite a bit,” he said. “Any time a pandemic happens, people are a little cautious. The longer it goes, the more comfortable they’ll be with the processes and procedures we’ve put in place to protect not only our team members but our patients.”

Riordan said the pandemic shouldn’t affect the timeline for the new Four Corners center — Community Health Centers’ 16th location set to open the first half of 2020.

Four Corners Community Health Center, at 508 Cagan View Road in Clermont, will offer pediatrics, family medicine, pediatric dental, adult dental, optometry, behavioral health, pharmacy and lab.

The building construction is finished, and a certificate of occupancy should be coming soon, Riordan said, adding that Four Corners Community Health Center hopefully will start serving patients in June.

NATIONAL RECOGNITION
Community Health Centers recently was recognized as a Best and the Brightest Company to Work For by the National Association for Business Resources for the second consecutive year.

The program awards companies that excel at employee relations, use innovation to motivate employees and implement creative compensation programs. Winners will be recognized at the National Best and Brightest Illuminate Summit in March 2021, in Dallas, Texas. 

The 2019 national winning companies were assessed by an independent research firm. The program honored 540 national winning organizations from across the country out of 5,000 nominations.

Tim Freed was the managing editor for the West Orange Times & Observer and the Southwest Orange Observer. He previously spent six years covering the Winter Park/Maitland area and is a graduate of the University of Central Florida.

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