Over the past several weeks, Oregon leaders have announced numerous, increasingly stringent orders around social distancing to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. Earlier this month, Gov. Kate Brown banned groups over 250. She narrowed that this week, banning groups of over 25. Hospitals and nursing care facilities have banned visitors all together.
- Nicole Vulcan
- A box sits ready for donations Friday in the gym/cafeteria of Ensworth Elementary in Bend. Drop locations are located at grab-and-go lunch sites around Central Oregon.
Meanwhile a shortage of personal protective equipment, or PPE, had St. Charles Medical Center putting out a call Thursday for locals to donate gloves, masks, gowns and other supplies. On Wednesday, Brown asked health care providers, including dentists, orthodontists, veterinarians and those at private clinics, to cease non-emergency visits in the interest of preserving PPE. Further, Brown asked providers to donate supplies to facilities treating COVID-19.
In short order, clinics including Central Oregon Pediatric Associates are pivoting to seeing many more patients via Zoom—the video conferencing app that seemingly everyone with home internet downloaded this week.
In the interest of maximized social distancing, COPA, the largest pediatric provider in the Central Oregon region, began offering expanded telemedicine for many of its patients as of Tuesday. Patients (or their caregivers) call the clinics' main line to get started.
- Courtesy COPA
- Dr. Carolyn Guttman, pediatrician at COPA, at her Zoom station.
The clinic will continue to provide in-person visits for newborns and for well-child checks for kids two and a half and under—visits that often include immunizations and monitoring developmental milestones that providers must do in person, COPA stated Friday. (Updated 3/21, 5:30pm: the original version of this story stated providers "can't" do those visits; that was inaccurate.)
Like other health care providers faced with supply chain disruptions, preserving PPEs is definitely a thing.
"COPA is conserving all our PPE supplies using multiple methods to ensure that our current supplies last as long as possible," Clausen wrote.
Vets adapt to social distancing
Dr. Byron Maas of Bend Veterinary Clinic was seeing a goat when I called to chat on Thursday.
"The Oregon Veterinary Medical Examining Board issued a statement saying that says we can provide telemedicine to our patients," Maas said. "We are taking it seriously. We have already, for the last two weeks, have been anticipating a need for PPE, and conserving and recycling and reusing whenever possible—autoclaving it when we can, so we don't burn through one per patient. Because of that, we can still be open and still do the care we need for our patients."
Maas said his supplies of PPE are adequate for his team, but that they don't have a stockpile.
"I've responded to the emergency task force—for things like anaesthesia, we will have that available for them in a time of need," he said.
- Daniel Robbins
- Dr. Byron Maas of Bend Veterinary Clinic, with Spike during our 2018 Best Of issue.
Maas also said the shortage of PPEs worldwide has had his team going "old school."
"Before this throwaway society, we used to have cloth masks. We have a couple employees now doing that, who have seamstress skills."
The next frontier
"While telemedicine is still very much in its infancy, these new health care platforms have the potential to solve some of the most persistent problems faced by rural inhabitants," the Oregon Health Sciences University's Oregon Office of Rural Health detailed on its web page. Part of the office's purview is Project ECHO, which focuses not only on expanding telemedicine, but on using it to help health care providers in rural areas get the continuing education credits they need to maintain or advance their careers. "There are certainly limitations as to what telemedicine can accomplish, but for populations with limited access to health care, a little has the potential to go a long way."