By Erica Wright
The Birmingham Times
Cooper Green Mercy Health Services, which aids a large part of Jefferson County’s indigent population, has continued most services during the COVID-19 pandemic and added telehealth, said Laura Hurst, Deputy Director of Cooper Green.
“We’re doing wound care, oncology and urgent care and we are restricting access to the building, triaging outside of the building and we’re just now getting ready to do telehealth visits via the phone,” said Hurst, Deputy Director of the Southside facility. “We’ll start that this week that’s the big thing right now.”
Telehealth allows health-related services and information via electronic information and telecommunication and gives Cooper Green long-distance patient and clinician contact, care and advice.
The facility continues care in other areas too, Hurst said. For example, Cooper Green provides COVID-19 tests for patients who have high fever or dry cough.
“We test here in our urgent care [clinic] and for those who it is warranted for, we’re not having high rates of testing but anybody who comes and meet those criteria we’re certainly going to be testing them,” she said.
Like many medical facilities, Cooper Green has challenges when it comes to the purchase of personal protective equipment (PPE), Hurst said.
“We need [protective gear including masks, gowns, goggles, no touch thermometers],” she said. “For example, if you’re trying to screen at the front door, we are not accustomed to using the no touch thermometers but being able to get our hands on them right now, we can’t do that.”
Another challenge her team faced early in the crisis, she said, were telephone calls “because there are so many [coming in] and the questions are so varied about a disease we don’t know much about so we just had to go with whatever the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is saying and be able to repeat that because [the pandemic] really changed as it progressed.”
Despite the challenges, Hurst said she is pleased by how the staff has handled the crisis. Currently, no one at Cooper Green has tested positive for COVID-19, she said.
The patients have also helped, she added.
“We have been proactively calling everybody who had a scheduled appointment… our patients have been great about following the instructions,” said Hurst. “… people have gotten the message and they are staying home, at least those we typically serve and they have been very compliant and are helping us out really so we can focus on urgent care.”
She also wanted everyone to know that Cooper Green will continue to provide a safety net for the county’s indigent and homeless populations and others.
“We’re here for those people of Jefferson County primarily who don’t have another regular source of care because they can’t afford to or because they don’t have insurance,” she said. “If they do get sick or they have a need, they understand our urgent care is still open. It doesn’t have to be for COVID-19. We’re here, we’re open if you need something, come or call us.”
Cooper Green Mercy Health Services can be reached at 205-930-3200 or www.coopergreen.org.
Updated at 4:17 p.m. on 4/1/2020 to clarify the services.