As lives were drastically changed and flipped upside down with the onset of COVID-19, heroes around every corner donned their capes to help those most in need.
Medical professionals are facing the threat of the virus head on daily to ensure their regular patients are still taken care of, receive their usual prescriptions and fight off any potential sickness that may put them at higher risk.
At Grove Park Pharmacy, the new medical clinic is pushing to ensure it is able to provide care, safety and comfort to new and returning patients.
Though the business has been providing medical care to the community since 1984, Grove Park Pharmacy’s Medical Clinic is just about a year old.
Owner Charles Thompson said the new venture allows them to see patients right at Grove Park and prescribe medications.
“A person can come in, see a nurse practitioner (and) get a prescription written,” Thompson said. “We can fill it right in the pharmacy seamlessly.”
Amid the virus, Thompson said they had to alter how the business regularly operates. But it has not slowed them down.
“We’ve been able to see patients and keep their medication refills up to date,” he said. “If there was a situation where they didn't need to come in and actually have hands on, we did it by telehealth.”
Communicating over the internet from their homes continues to be a strategy the clinic employs to ensure keeping patients taken care of while keeping them out of any potential risk.
Thompson said this has been beneficial to patients unable to see their regular doctors.
April Inabinet, one of the Grove Park Pharmacy Medical Clinic’s nurse practitioners, said telehealth calls have been an effective way to speak with patients, especially for chronic disease management.
“They’ll put the patient on the schedule and then we’re using approved medical software to video chat with the patient,” Inabinet said. “It’s a little more difficult for acute visits but for our patients, it’s been very effective.”
Inabinet said she’s spoken with colleagues in Columbia and Lexington also performing these virtual visits. They, too, see real value in maintaining constant communication and getting data from patients such as blood sugar levels for diabetes management.
Consulting with patients is a way they have tried to combat any fears during this time.
Nurse practitioner Tamara Till said one of their biggest concerns was that a patient would not seek health care out of fear.
Till said it was important for them to provide “that aspect of virtual health, and let them know that it is effective and we are able to adequately treat you.”
“We want them to know that and to still be seen even if they're scared to come into the office because it’s so important for us to follow up with our chronic care patients in the rural areas,” Till said. “We want them to know we’re doing everything we can.”
Inabinet agreed that easing patients’ fears throughout this time is a major focus.
“We have had so many meetings in trying to find the best way,” she said. “We’ve used numerous platforms to try and figure out what’s the simplest to use.”
They have met patients in the parking lot and delivered medications directly to their homes.
Blood pressure and blood sugar checks have been done out of patients’ vehicles to keep them from coming in if need be.
“When these patients have these needs, we just need to be able to be there for them,” Inabinet said.
Thompson said he wants to “emphasize how proud we are of our employees and how dedicated they are.”
He said they have stepped up and put their health at risk to continue serving the community.
Some employees working from home end up working overtime and outside of usual business hours just to make sure the patients are either able to speak through the telehealth channels or simply check in.
When they started Grove Park Pharmacy's Medical Clinic, Thompson said there were concerns they would be overrun with new patients. They did not want to have to turn people away.
In just a year’s time, the clinic has grown from just one exam room to four.
“Since it’s a new endeavor, we wanted to take it slow and have all our processes in place and be able to meet any challenge that comes about,” he said. “We feel like we’ve conquered all that now and we’re ready to ramp up.”
“I feel like every one of our employees is an unsung hero,” Thompson said.