A federal grant awarded last week to the Tampa Family Health Centers will allow it to expand services to medically underserved residents in Hillsborough County while trying to combat the spread of COVID-19.
While the 14 Hillsborough County clinics have been operating during normal business hours, the $3.45 million provided by the CARES Act will help maintain its current staff level and pay dental staff who have been furloughed during the pandemic, said Chief Executive Officer Sherry Hoback. It also will help buy equipment like personal protective equipment for staff members.
Hoback said the grant - which was the largest awarded to 47 health centers in Florida - arrived “literally just in time.”
The centers, which provide health care regardless of a person’s ability to pay, also will add three outdoor testing locations for coronavirus. If someone tests positive, Hoback said the centers will provide health services and guidance on treating Covid-19 to the patient and families who may not understand the need for social distancing.
“Sometimes going through a 14-day quarantine is just unfamiliar and uncharted territory for people and we're here to offer a sounding board and a listening ear for those,” she said.
The center also will beef up its telemedicine assistance, targeting in particular the vulnerable senior population. Hoback said the center felt it necessary to provide a way to connect patients and the center without needing an in-person appointment.
“Diabetes doesn’t stop, hypertension doesn’t stop, and these are the most vulnerable patients,” she said. “We don't want them ending up in the emergency room because they weren't receiving their care.”
The center’s existing behavioral health program opened a phone line to help patients and staff affected by the coronavirus situation. People are struggling to social distance, work and go to school at home. She said many existing patients have lost their jobs and the phone line is able to provide one-on-one sessions where they are validated and learn about coping strategies.
“This is an impressive time for the nation and an unprecedented time. A lot of us don't know how to act,” said Hoback. “We have to ask people that have never worked from home before to go home and now work in their home office while they might be doing additional schooling.”
Hoback said she also is trying to support the staff at Tampa Family Health Centers, with weekly conference calls with pharmacists, physicians and dentists, and a weekly call with clinic managers and directors. She said they’re also providing workers thank you cards and lunch.
“We want to make sure that the emotional needs are addressed of not only our patients, but our staff as well, because we want to make sure that they are there and we're there for them to answer any questions,” said Hoback. “Sometimes it's just a telephone call to say, ‘This is just a little overwhelming’ and ‘I feel a little sad today.’”
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