Treating patients during a pandemic
RAPID CITY, S.D. — The importance of medical care can never be overstated, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic. Caregivers at Rapid City Medical Center (RCMC) have been working tirelessly to provide the best and safest care they can during the pandemic.
When the pandemic first began, RCMC moved quickly, following the guidelines set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). For six weeks, their facilities were closed to nonessential visits and elective procedures. “We have taken great steps to ensure that we are doing everything that the CDC recommends to keep our patients and healthcare providers as safe as we can in this environment,” says Heather Bindel, Chief Operating Officer at RCMC.
While Bindel works with the CEO and Chief Financial Officer to make recommendations for the clinic’s precautions, it ultimately falls to the Executive Committee to make decisions about the clinic’s procedures. This committee is made up of partner-physicians who work to ensure RCMC is following all guidelines set by the CDC, which can rapidly change as the scientific community learns more about COVID-19. The committee receives input from many of the clinic’s other providers and staff.
“Our physicians have been very involved,” Bindel says, “and they have done a lot of research and given a lot of recommendations, and they feel that the protocols we have in place are the best ones available to us at this time.”
In the last few months, requirements have shifted to protect patients and optimize the clinic’s available resources and facilities. All patients are checked in over the phone to limit the number of people in waiting rooms, and masks must be worn at all times by patients and staff while indoors.
For those with COVID-19 symptoms, RCMC can readily test individuals who have a doctor’s order. Like many facilities across the nation, RCMC is offering drive-up COVID testing, offering results in 3-5 days. When a person is exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19 they may need medical attention, but the clinic has procedures to protect patients from an infected person. To minimize the risk of spreading the virus, Bindel says that possible COVID patients are separated from primary care and instead go to the Urgent Care clinic.
The long-lasting effects of the pandemic will include a few new procedures that were created out of necessity. “There may be some virtual check-in options that will continue because, once we get all of the bugs worked out, they will be a really great tool for our patients,” Bindel says. “We will keep virtual appointments in the capacity that we can under insurance rules, and if there are patients that can be cared for appropriately, we will definitely continue that.” Bindel says that insurance companies have been allowing more patients to visit with their physicians virtually in order to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
Bindel says patients have been very understanding of the new requirements at the clinic and she encourages people to continue doing their part to bring an end to the pandemic. “It’s an ever-changing situation,” Bindel says. “We ask that everyone keep following the guidelines issued by the CDC and we will do the best that we can. We follow these recommendations and hope that we can weather this storm.”