On Monday afternoon Rep. Adrian Madaro along with East Boston Neighborhood Health Center’s CEO Manny Lopes and CMO Dr. Jackie Fantes held a virtual town hall to discuss the clinical context of the COVID-19 outbreak, its impacts on the local population as well as the medical responses being implemented.
“We understand these are very scary times and we are all taking this hour by hour day by day,” said Madaro before turning the meeting over to Dr. Fantes. “Like you we are not sure what tomorrow holds so we did want to come together to provide an update with clinical context from EBNHC CEO Manny Lopes and CMO Dr. Jackie Fantes on the health and community impacts from.”
Dr. Fantes said as of Monday there has been a little over 700,000 COVID-19 cases in the world with a little more than 35,000 deaths; in the US there little more than 148,000 cases with 2,600 deaths; in Massachusetts there has been 4,955 cases and 48 deaths out of 39,000 folks tested in the state; and in Suffolk County there are 940 cases with three deaths confirmed as of Monday.
“As we know COVID-19 is widespread in Massachusetts so one of the messages I like to give is that the goal remains the same around social distancing,” said Fantes. “The goal is to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and this is done by social distancing to decrease the transmission of the disease by droplets. We’ve done a lot here at the Health Center to ensure safety of East Boston, our patients and our staff.”
The Health Center has begun screening for fever and cough at the front door at each of its locations.
“If someone does screen positive we place a mask on them,” said Fantes. “The 10 Gove S. Emergency department is fully functional but we have developed a influenza-like illness clinic where we can separate patients that have flu-like symptoms. We have also developed a runner system with our pharmacy and run prescriptions outside to patients so they don’t have to enter the building.”
Fantes said the EBNHC has also consolidated a lot of services to better care for patients and prepare for a rise in cases.
One major change has been using Telehealth to care for EBNHC patients that may need medical help that does not require a trip to the emergency room.
Telehealth is the remote delivery of health care services and clinical information using communications technology, including the internet, wireless, satellite and phone media.
“We have also promoted Telehealth and to date have done 1,700 visits so our patients can remain safe in their homes,” said Fantes.
With intensifying concerns surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, Telehealth has become of paramount importance to ensure the safety of patients and health care providers. It allows patients the opportunity to seamlessly continue their care while practicing social distancing, remaining in their home, and minimizing their exposure to the virus.
Lopes added that he wants everyone in the community to understand that as a Community Health Center they will continue their mission of serving all in the community.
“Our team of medical professionals and support staff have stepped up at a time that we know is really challenging,” said Lopes. “There is quite a bit of fear and uncertainty in our community so our first job is to share the information we have with the public and also serve the community as a resource for health and mental health services. We are trying to encourage our community of patients to call us before coming in. If you call us first our staff can decide whether it is appropriate to have a TeleHealth visit or if there is an urgent need for you to come in we can direct you to the appropriate building..”