We hope all of our patients are staying home and sheltering in. We, at Be Well Medical Center, are adjusting to our “new normal” and operating better than we ever could have expected. We’re delivering excellent health care on the computer via telemedicine or telephone for those unable to connect online. The process has gotten much easier and now we can simply send you a text message before your scheduled telemedical visit; and if you reply to that text you will be connected automatically instead of going through our portal system.
BY DIRECTIVE OF THE CENTER FOR DISEASE CONTROL, NOW IS NOT THE TIME TO PERSONALLY SEE YOUR DOCTOR UNLESS ABSOLUTELY URGENT. (cdc.gov)
We have some telephone lines and medical visits being managed by our staff from their homes to limit exposure to COVID in our office. We are all doing well, especially our employees who had COVID. Most importantly, our care for immediate concerns has not been interrupted and is being handled immediately. In fact, many patients are commenting that it’s faster access to us than ever before.
Per CDC guidelines, we are trying not to spend our precious time writing “back to work” notes. The CDC has declared a medical emergency and as such work notes should not be expected. We have extended no foot traffic visits for another week until April 20, 2020. However, don’t delay in reaching out to us as we have been very creative and are able to handle most concerns remotely. We are now accepting new patients again for telemedical visits as our situation has stabilized.
Again, requesting your refills through your pharmacist electronically saves us time and gets this done more quickly.
We also are able to manage COVID-19 efficiently and keep you out of the Hospital more often than not. We continue to do “drive by testing” for our patients and provide early treatment with Hydroxychloroquine and Zithromax when indicated. Our network of Specialists has been diligent in communicating with us as the need arises and quickly seeing our patients with our referral in the hospital as appropriate.
On a somewhat disappointing note, we have not been able to get the 15-minute test kits in the office (yet). We have the correct devices to do the tests, but not the test kits. They are being given to hospitals and nursing homes only. I have added my letter to Abbott Laboratories regarding this concern at the end of this communication for you to read.
We will get through this together. CDC guidance recommends everyone going outside for essentials wear any type of cloth over their mouths and noses. This offers some protection to you and those around you. It is a recommendation at this time and not an order.
We are here for you. Again, I’m so proud of my entire staff for giving over 100%. Thank you for all the warm thoughts and praises we have been receiving. They mean a lot to us!
To Your Good Health…We Remain
Copy of My Letter to Abbott
April 6, 2020
Thank you for taking your precious time and joining me on a telephone call this afternoon. There is a problem to be dealt with regarding distribution of the Rapid COVID-19 kits and it requires immediate attention. I’m not sure how to do it, and request escalation to the correct individuals that can solve it for me; and for other providers like me. As I have made you aware, I have a medical practice in Berkley, three miles north of Detroit. I have been in practice since 1980. I’m a board-certified family doctor, a certified research professional conducting many HIV clinical trials, and an accredited HIV specialist with the American Academy of HIV Medicine. I tell you this because my medical experience is relevant to our current COVID-19 pandemic. I started my practice at the very beginning of the AIDS epidemic. I direct four medical providers and together we manage over 1000 HIV patients. Additionally, we have many other patients that are high risk for COVID progression. I feel like I’m reliving the AIDS crisis all over again without the stigma or prejudice of the LGBTQ population. If doctors such as I don’t ACT-UP, nothing will happen to help assist my population of patients.
Just like in the 1980’s my clinic has not shirked away from our duty of taking care of our patients during this pandemic. We have been doing at least 50 telemedical visits daily from sick or worried patients. We do drive-byes for COVID tests of which we currently get the results back in 2-3 days. Six of my medical staff have become infected with COVID, yet most of them are currently working remotely from home. I rotate 2 medical providers working remotely from home and two in the office caring for patient on the telephone or computer. We are closed for foot traffic. We have been able to manage our own patients with immediate service. We are managing well over 40 patients with COVID and the list keeps growing. I am most proud of our response, probably not much different from many other primary care providers, especially those who lived through the early days of HIV. I’m not complaining, but I’ve learned from the past that I have to advocate for my patients. When the times get tough the tough get going and there needs to be change in the distribution of the rapid COVID tests.
Abbott has made a blanket “cookie cutter” decision to not provide the test kits to primary care clinics and only to hospitals, including designated hot spots. I understand there are priorities, however there are also exceptions that must be made. “The horse is out of the barn and to do these tests strictly in the hospitals is simply wrong. I want to augment the hospital system and not replace it. I want the opportunity to practice prevention and early detection to help stop the spread and to treat early to prevent hospitalizations, ventilators, and mortality.
The problem is this. The 15-minute Abbott platform has just been released to do COVID-19 testing. My clinic is fortunate that we already have the correct lab equipment in place to run these potential lifesaving tests. All we need is the kits to accomplish this, yet I was just told I can’t receive any. Any clinic such as mine should be considered a priority. Patients prefer their own doctor that they are comfortable with and would seek medical attention sooner rather than later to wait in a dreaded line at the hospital.
The fact of the matter is I’m seeing plenty of these patients right now. Hospitals are the worst place to be unless they are necessary. We status our patients from mild to severe. We call them daily to update their conditions. I’m already prescribing hydroxychloroquine and Zithromax to the moderate intensity patients and sending to the hospital the severe cases.
Providing care at this grass root level is one of the best places for testing for so many reasons. Abbott, or whoever makes the decisions doesn’t seem to get this priority. Rapid COVID testing may not be right for every office, but it is for my clinic. Any request must be individually considered immediately. Lives are at stake.
I’m more than willing to be part of the solution. Please respond to me as soon as possible.
Paul Benson, D.O.