Covid-19 infections disrupt local clinic


January 27, 2022

By Diana Zimmerman

Covid-19 seems to be causing staffing issues everywhere right now, including the Wahkiakum Clinic, which was closed last Thursday and Friday.

“All of our clinics are just getting slammed with covid-19,” Cowlitz Family Health Center (CFHC) Director Jim Coffee said on Monday. “Most of our staff are vaccinated and are just being taken down by the omicron virus. It’s been pretty devastating. We’ve had a couple clinics that have been closed off and on because we don’t have any staff.”

That doesn’t mean all the staff are out because they have covid-19. There are guidelines for people who test positive, which varies for the symptomatic or asymptomatic, and other guidelines for people who have just had close contact.

“With the Hippocratic oath, ‘First do no harm,’ we want to make sure our staff are not infecting patients,” Coffee said. “So we’re erring on the side of caution. I know that it presents challenges for people.”

Patients are encouraged to take advantage of their electronic patient portal, MyChart, to ask questions.

“If nothing else, they’ll get a question in and it should get to the right place,” Coffee said. “There is always someone looking at those, so if a provider is not in, we have a nurse assigned to review those messages as well. That’s one way people can keep on top of their personal health care.”

Patients also have the option of making an appointment at any of their other clinics if their provider is not available. Coffee hopes to have a centralized call center staffed by their own employees in May to make it a little easier.

“That will help as we continue to move along through this time,” he said. “Hopefully this is one of the last surges for awhile. It’s overwhelming.”

CFHC continue to look for a locum tenens to fill in the second position at the office.

“We never stop trying,” Coffee said. “We’re looking for someone permanent, but it’s a slower process.”

Coffee said that the clinics have been providing free at home tests for anyone who wants them, for as long as they are available.

They were cleaned out in an hour at their Longview office, Coffee said, but they are starting on getting resupplied. They also hope to be giving out KN95 masks soon.

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