How to use Urgent Care Centers during COVID-19 outbreak
Many people know that you should go to an urgent care center when your illness or injury is not serious enough to go to the Emergency Department at the hospital. The Cape Cod Healthcare Urgent Care Centers have been treating patients throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, and have changed their usual triage process to ensure patient safety.
Cape Cod Healthcare (CCHC) has a team response plan for the coronavirus and COVID-19 pandemic that is based on keeping everyone healthy. The CCHC Urgent Care Centers play a large part in the plan by tending to patients who need care for issues other than the coronavirus. By doing so, the Urgent Care Centers are keeping those patients safe who have non-emergent healthcare needs.
“We are taking care of those who need medical attention but don’t need to go to the Emergency Department.” said Hilary Challies-McDermott, RN, executive director of CCHC Urgent Care.
The list of ailments for which an Urgent Care Center is appropriate includes:
- Urinary tract infections
- Ear infections
- Tick bites
- Fractured bones
- Lacerations that may need stitches
- Strep throat
- Tetanus shots
If you have any of those medical issues, one of CCHC’s three Urgent Care Centers in Harwich, Hyannis and Sandwich is a very safe place to get medical care. There are stringent safeguards in place and no one with symptoms of COVID-19 is allowed into the buildings, said Challies-McDermott.
A Controlled Setting
“It’s a very, very controlled situation at Urgent Cares about who comes in with what symptoms and who is to remain outside to be treated using FaceTime and telemedicine,” she said. “You can come here and you’re going to be safe because everyone is screened at the front door.”
Each Urgent Care Center now has one entrance and a clinical staff person who is fully protected with a mask, face shield, gloves and gown meets each patient at the door. That person will give the patient a mask and inquire about the reason for their visit. They also take vital signs, including temperature, pulse and oxygen level.
Patients who do not have any symptoms of COVID-19 will be brought into a treatment room for care. Those who do have COVID-19 symptoms are directed back to their cars to wait for telemedicine care and instructions.
“Everyone in Urgent Care has been doing an amazing job,” Challies-McDermott said. “The nurses have been phenomenal in making sure that everyone, patients and staff, is protected.”
Anyone who has a fever, cough, mild respiratory issue, or any flu-like or additional COVID-19 symptoms is directed back to their car for a telemedicine FaceTime visit with a doctor on an iPad. The device is delivered to the patient’s care by a nurse, who is fully protected with personal protective equipment (PPE.) The iPads are disinfected after every use, as is all reusable equipment at the Urgent Care Centers, she said.
A safe and efficient system has been set up for COVID-19 testing.
- If you have symptoms like a fever, cough, or respiratory issues (see the CCHC website for additional information on coronavirus symptoms), you should call your primary care doctor. If you are a patient of a Cape Cod Healthcare primary care physician and your doctor determines that you should be tested, he or she will submit an electronic order for testing at the drive-through testing site at Cape Cod Community College.
- If you are experiencing symptoms and do not have a primary care doctor, call the dedicated CCHC call center at 508-862-5595 to be screened for COVID-19. If testing is required, the clinical provider will follow the same process as a primary care physician of submitting a doctor’s order for testing. No one will be tested without a clinical order.
- If you do not have a primary care doctor and are experiencing serious symptoms like severe shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, you should visit one of the triage tents outside Cape Cod Hospital and Falmouth Hospital.
- As always, anyone experiencing life-threatening symptoms should call 911 and seek immediate medical attention.
For non-coronavirus symptoms, Cape Cod Healthcare Urgent Care services are currently offered at three locations: Fontaine Outpatient Center in Harwich, Stoneman Outpatient Center in Sandwich and Hyannis Urgent Care. The Urgent Care Center in Falmouth is closed temporarily, due to low volume, and nurses at that facility are currently working at the other three CCHC Urgent Care Centers. Physicians from the Falmouth site are working at Falmouth Hospital and Stoneman Urgent Care Center in Sandwich.