Yesterday the Chautauqua Center welcomed Congressman Tom Reed, County Executive PJ Wendel and Mayor Willie Rosas to their Dunkirk clinic site for a roundtable discussion about COVID-19 and the emerging needs of our local health system. The health center has been working closely with Christine Schuyler, Public Health Director of Chautauqua County, to identify needs and advocate for the public health of our local population.
As a federally qualified health center, The Chautauqua Center is part of a nationwide network of community health centers that have been conducting daily phone calls with each other to plan, prepare and strategize about providing the best response to COVID-19 and protecting their workforce.
Kristy Lauer, Clinical Director of The Chautauqua Center, said that one of their biggest concerns is lack of personal protective equipment such as masks, gowns, and face shields to prevent the spread of the virus. She explained, “that is what we are most concerned about, protecting our staff and also protecting the people we come into contact with.”
Michael Pease, Chief Executive Officer of The Chautauqua Center, relayed other concerns, and suggested that telehealth (providing care over the phone or video chat) is going to become a huge asset to health centers during this pandemic. Pease reviewed with the Congressman the regulations that currently prohibit The Chautauqua Center and other providers from using telehealth for appointments with social work providers. He explained, “people with mental health or substance abuse issues that need to see their social workers are forced to come in, when we are telling everybody to stay home.”
“This is great feedback…We’re on this, we are working together,” the Congressman said as he agreed to bring the concerns brought up at this meeting back to Albany.
Regarding the preventative act of closing schools and other businesses, Pease expressed, “it is important for people to know…all organizations are working together in various capacities and various levels. This is a real issue for health care organizations because, if all of a sudden our health care workers all become overwhelmed with being contagious…our capacity to take care of other sick people is gone.”
Dunkirk Mayor Willie Rosas said, “I want to let Mike know that we are going to be here to help out in any way that we can. And if there is anything you see that the city can do, our resources are here to help you out.”
The County Executive expressed, “The Chautauqua Center was one of the first [groups] we communicated with…you guys are a valuable asset because of your footprint in the community and in our county is huge.”
The group reviewed how the general public can help to avoid overwhelming the health care system:
* PLEASE DO NOT COME TO THE DOCTOR’S OFFICE IF YOU FEEL SICK. If you feel sick, stay home and call your doctor’s office to talk about your symptoms over the phone. Your provider will assist you to get the help that you need.
* Do not call 911 because you have questions about your health – call your doctor’s office.
* If you do not have a doctor, call The Chautauqua Center. They are always accepting new patients, bill all insurances and offer a sliding fee scale and payment plans.
* If you do not have health insurance, call The Chautauqua Center. A certified application counselor can assist you over the phone with enrolling in a plan on the New York State of Health Marketplace.
The entire conversation can be viewed online, by clicking the video on the Chautauqua Center’s Facebook page. The Chautauqua Center has locations in Dunkirk and Jamestown and is open Monday-Thursday 8am- 7pm and Friday 8am- 5pm. For more information, visit tcchealth.org. To schedule an appointment or speak with a provider, call (716) 363-6050.