HAYS, Kan. (KWCH) Doctor’s offices and hospitals aren’t immune from the economic impacts of COVID-19.
As the virus spreads, it has fewer people scheduling appointments.
In response to that, the federal COVID-19 stimulus packager or CARES Act is sending out a chunk of that money to community health centers.
Officials with MercyOne in Clinton have announced the implementation of visitor restrictions.(MGN Image)
“What it does is give us some stability going into the future because we’re not really sure what this looks like going forward as far as our operations,” said First Care Clinic CEO Bryan Brady. “We’ve had to close down our dental clinic, and we’ve seen probably, roughly a 50 percent drop in patient visits to the clinic, so that does create some uncertainty for us.”
First Care Clinic in Hays is one of 18 Kansas community health centers sharing in about $15 million to support their continued operation and response to COVID 19.
It’s part of $1.3 billion in the CARES Act to support community health centers, which provide comprehensive medical, dental and mental health services for underserved populations.
FCC CEO Bryan Brady said the $646,985 it got is also going to help them continue their day to day business, while preparing for the impact of COVID 19.
Part of that means launches telehealth services.
“That’s a pretty big investment for us because we hadn’t invested in that technology, and frankly, the insurance companies we’re paying for those types of services and for the most part, people could come to the doctor.” Brady said, “With the stay at home order, we need to offer our patients another avenue to access care that works in today’s environment.”
He went on to say, “We’ve completely closed the dental clinic, so we’re repurposing some of those staff in different jobs. One of the ways we’re doing that is with this telehealth platform we’re bringing up, what we’re finding out is there’s a lot of troubleshooting on the patients’ end to make their device work.”
In rural parts of Kansas, these providers said for some people, this is their primary point of access to care.
“It’s huge that we maintain that access, and as we see on the news, the unemployment numbers climbing, we will probably see more of our patients that need our help because they lose their insurance or lost their income,” said Brady. “We want to make sure we’re here for them and continue to provide the high-quality care they’re used to.”
Community Health Center in Cowley County was another of the recipients.
Its CEO David Brazil said in a statement:
“This funding will significantly support our health center and community in responding to COVID-19 over the next year.
It supports the detection of coronavirus (SARSCoV2) and/or the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of coronavirus disease, including maintaining or increasing health center capacity and staffing levels during the related public health emergency, as outlined in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.”
Brazil added this would allow them to purchase protective equipment and testing supplies.
These grants also come when Kansas is seeing more medical and social assistance workers file for unemployment. Kansas Department of Labor data shows of initial claims made last week, about 14 percent or a little more than 6,400 of the applications came from people who worked in those industries.