It seems people are thinking of nothing but the coronavirus, but some health care providers and organizations want to ensure other kinds of care aren’t forgotten in the face of the pandemic.
The Teton County Health Department said in a release Monday that it is still providing nursing and environmental health services. After county officials opted to lock the doors of usually open buildings starting Monday, public health officials had a message: We’re still open, kind of.
“This is the first day we’ve been closed to the public,” Public Health Response Coordinator Rachael Wheeler said Monday. “We wanted people to know we’re still here.”
Those who need services like family planning or water sampling can still go to the Health Department building, located at 460 E. Pearl Ave. However, they now need an appointment.
Nursing is one of the Health Department’s main focuses. Low-income and uninsured families often rely on it for sexual and reproductive health care, including birth control, Plan B medication and sexually transmitted infection screenings.
Even before Teton County halted open access to its buildings, the nursing program had seen a dip in visits.
“I hope it’s because people are practicing social distancing,” nurse manager Janet Garland said.
For the foreseeable future, patients will call the Health Department first. Their requests for service will be routed to whichever nurse is best suited to help.
Nurses will evaluate the patient’s need over the phone, the release said, and most appointments will be conducted through telehealth. Patients in need of in-person care will be able to come to the Health Department’s clinic, with a few changes in the screening process.
“We’re trying to limit public entry to the building to a couple of days a week,” Garland said. “We would screen them at the door and make sure they are not symptomatic, that they’re fever free.”
In addition to nursing services, people can still have their water tested for bacteriological contaminants. The lab is open Mondays and Tuesdays for Environmental Protection Agency required testing of public water systems. Private well and spring owners should call ahead, and samples should be left in the cooler out front of the building.
Until the coronavirus outbreak dies down, the Health Department will not take pool and spa water samples for bacteriological testing.
The Health Department is not the only organization trying to maintain a sense of normalcy. Looking ahead to when the outbreak may subside, the St. John’s Health Foundation is asking for public input on needs for cancer support programs with a new survey.
The questionnaire is for patients in any stage of a cancer diagnosis, from initial stages of treatment to recovery and remission. Family members of those who have had cancer are also asked to respond. Go to TinyURL.com/qmx4v47 to take the survey.
In partnership with Curvejumping, a research and strategy firm, the foundation will aggregate results and make an assessment on which cancer support programs might be needed in the community. Results will be available for participants and anyone else who is interested.
Respondents may remain anonymous, though they can provide contact information if they want to. Consultants at Curvejumping may get in touch with some participants to ask follow-up questions.
Putting out a survey or reminding people of the non-coronavirus services the Health Department provides are, in part, a recognition that people will have other health care needs during the pandemic. Even though everyone is being asked to practice social distancing doesn’t mean patients should ignore their health care needs.
“Nobody would be denied service for something that was urgent, particularly in sexual and reproductive health areas,” Garland said. “We’ll make sure that somehow they get served.”
This article was updated to show that the Health Department is running bacteriological testing for water systems, not nitrates testing. — Ed.