COVID-19 has had devastating impacts on health and wellness across the country and the consequences continue. One challenge for health care providers, in our region during the pandemic, has been getting patients screened for cancer. Mountain Community Health Partnership (MHCP) recognized the decreased number of patients getting screened and through a partnership with AMY Wellness Foundation (AMYWF) received funding to address this problem.
“The biggest factor is decreased appointments,” said Tim Evans, Director of Grants and Business Development of MCHP. “We simply had to cancel everything we did in-house initially and then restructure most of our appointments as “virtual” visits. Many of our patients were not comfortable over zoom or did not have internet and devices that would allow them to have the visits at all. Patients were unable to have screening services like mammograms, bloodwork (PSA) or if they could, many were too scared to attend them. Additionally, our capacity to reach out to patients proactively to schedule those visits and screenings was significantly decreased due to needing to focus almost entirely on Covid-19 testing and care,” said Evans.
To combat this issue MCHP received funding for training in partnership with the American Cancer Society. “The training will bring this to the forefront, make it fresh, help remind us why we are here, let us work through improving processes to get the screenings accomplished. It has been a very long year and we are still having to make staffing changes daily to accommodate testing and vaccinations and the changing needs of our staff and organization. The training will assist us in re-focusing on this very important part of what we do,” said Evans.
Looking forward to other needs to address the pandemic, MCHP received support from AMYWF to have a full-time staff member oversee and manage their vaccine distribution process. “Creating a community expert to ensure team members share the most up to date information, allows us to coordinate and push out the most important updates through our local networks. The faster we get people vaccinated, the faster we will be able to return to some semblance of normal life in our communities,” said LaCosta Tipton, Interim Director of Operations for MCHP. “There are daily tasks that need to be completed, coordination of that is important, storage and handling are crucial, coordination of events to reach the masses quicker than we could without it. Ultimately this helps our entire organization work towards returning to a “new normal.” Many people were taking on part of this job and each of us was having to let other things go to do that. With a coordinator, we have one main point of contact internally to manage our vaccination efforts. We also have one main person to coordinate with state-level folks regarding vaccinations,” she continued.
Regarding both COVID-19 initiatives, Evans said, “Saving one life makes it worth it regardless if early cancer detection or prevention with HPV or helping save lives with Covid-19 vaccines. Our team members would say this brings value and worth to the work they have been doing day in and day out. Many people on our teams (and our volunteers) report that providing the vaccination clinics is the first thing they have done in a year that feels like it is working towards a solution, working towards something positive. Everything else we have done for the past year has felt like it has been managing an impending disaster. It has been difficult, to say the least. Beginning to re-focus on screenings is another way that we can make positive steps towards the future.”
When asked how he felt about the AMYWF partnership, Evans said, “MCHP is incredibly grateful for the partnership we are developing with AMYWF. It is great to be a trusted community partner and have a local foundation that is truly interested and responsive to the needs of our communities. We are particularly grateful that AMYWF is working to distribute funds in an equitable and impactful way in our rural communities. We look forward to continued collaboration with AMYWF and our community partners to improve the health and wellbeing of our communities.”
MCHP is currently offering cancer screenings, vaccines, and a full array of primary care services. To schedule an appointment, please contact MCHP at https://www.mchp.care/ or 828-688-2104 or the Celo Health Center at 828-675-4116.