Private medical practices impacted by COVID-19

By Mark Reynolds
Posted 4/1/20

Dr. Stephen Weinman, of First Care Medical Center in Highland, said they are still seeing patients in the family practice, in the Urgent Care and for Physical Therapy.

“The patient volume …

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Private medical practices impacted by COVID-19

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Dr. Stephen Weinman, of First Care Medical Center in Highland, said they are still seeing patients in the family practice, in the Urgent Care and for Physical Therapy.

“The patient volume here has dropped off by approximately 50%,” he said. “We actually had to let some staff go and we’re working one day less in the family practice and we’re down to single coverage on the Urgent Care side...It is slower than we’ve been in years.”

Weinman believes the reductions in staff and hours will not be permanent.

“As long as they have people social distancing, we won’t be seeing all the colds and strep throats, diarrhea illnesses and the stomach flu because no one is giving it to each other. Schools are closed so kids aren’t giving each other communicable diseases. All that is suddenly gone and that is the bread and butter of the Urgent Care,” he said.

Weinman has ordered the tests needed to detect the coroanvirus and is presently sending patients to Tech City in Kingston for the drive-thru test if it appears warranted. He has just started for the first time conducting visual tele-medicine visits through the center’s computer to detect and diagnose the disease in patients.

Weinman’s patients who are complaining of symptoms associated with the covid-19 remain in their cars.

“We’ll go out and do a flu swab because if they have the flu they are less likely to have Coronavirus, but it’s not impossible that some people have both,” he said.

Weinman said every few hours he has objects and surfaces disinfected but the concern has lessened to a degree because his office does not have many patients.

Weinman said in fighting the spread of the virus on the national level, “we’re weeks behind. We should have been isolating weeks before we started and we should have had more tests available than we do because we still don’t have a real grasp of the problem.”

Weinman is against opening up the country by Easter.

“This is one of those things where you’ve got to take the bitter pill; it’s really bitter for awhile but if you try to make the pill less bitter you’re going to have it in your mouth for months,” he said.

Dr. Steven Auerbach, of Auerbach Family Chiropractic Center in Highland, has remained open, even though he sees about 25 percent of his regular patients. He said he looked at the issue of staying open from “many angles.”

“It’s important to support the people who need us. We’re trying to hold it to an emergency level of care but there are people who need us, so I have stayed open,” he said. “Many have said you and the grocery store are the only ones I come out for; they are so appreciative.”

Auerbach said he and his wife Laura are “holding down the fort” while the rest of his staff is at home. He noted that they have done “enormous things” to keep the office safe.

“We’re cleaning constantly, we wipe down every table in between every patient, all of the counters and the bathroom after every use,” he said.

Auerbach has only two patients in the office at any given time who sit six feet apart. If a third person arrives they wait in their car for a text to come inside. He has hand sanitizers throughout the office, starting with one as you come in the door.

Auerbach said the strength of a person’s immune system plays an important role in staving off the virus. To bolster one’s system, “you want to have a proper diet and eat right, you want to exercise and manage your stress a little bit in times like this. We have always emphasized here a healthy lifestyle.” As a Chiropractor he can help with theses issues and guide people in a healthy direction, while also providing additional information when needed. He has resumed the 8 Weeks To Wellness program, making them one-on-one sessions with the trainer that is all done remotely.

“We’re healthy and we’re happy and we’re trying to do our part to keep the community happy,” he said.

Scott Woebse, President & CEO of Mobile Life Support Services, has been in the EMS field for 39 years.

Woebse has seen a lot in his line work; recalling that he helped write the EMS plans for both wars in Iraq when they wanted to bring soldiers back home through Stewart Airport; he flew over Manhattan in a NYS helicopter on the night of 911 and was in New Orleans during Katrina.

“I’ve never seen anything like this before. This is different because every day, every patient is a suspect in a way,” he said.

Woebse said Personal Protective Equipment [PPE] is comprised of high-grade filter masks, eye shields, gowns that cover the body and gloves. He said his company has 440 uniformed personnel and a maximum of 48 ambulances that occupy 24 stations. He said they had enough masks on hand but no one was prepared for what this has turned into, especially in the past few weeks. He said his entire company typically uses 30 “one-and-done” finely filtered protective masks per week and today that number has spiked to 295 a day because a growing number of people they treat are showing symptoms of the virus ranging from mild to severe. He is hoping that between the state supply pipeline and private donations that his company can keep up with the demand for these critical masks.

“We have to gown-up anytime we suspect a covid-19 patient,” he said, adding that in the three counties his company covers [Orange, Ulster and Dutchess], “we are seeing dozens and dozens a day and that number is gradually increasing as time goes by.”

Woebse said the hospitals they work with, “are being extremely vigilant and putting safeguards in place and doing everything they can to protect their staff and their patients. It’s a struggle because it’s a lot of patients that are starting to come in and we have to take super precautions on each one. Never before have I seen the EMS industry challenged like this.”

Woebse said the common thread that exists throughout his company and for all health care workers is fear.

“Imagine if you come into work and you’re going to see four covid patients today and what your fear level is, that’s being shared by the health care workers in the hospitals and everywhere else,” he said.

Woebse said all of his staff are doing the right things to protect themselves and to minimize the ever present danger around their working lives, “but it’s ever lurking and that is what’s really different about this.”

To donate any medical materials contact Trish Mood at tmood@mobilelife.com.

Teresa and a friend reached out to the Highland community to see if anyone can sew masks that can go over a current one as an added layer of protection.

“We’ll take them, sterilize them, wash them and steam press them and hand them out to whoever needs them, whether it’s right around the corner, at Health Quest or to Vassar Brothers Hospital,” she said.

The finished masks can be dropped off at Lilly Rae in the Hamlet, a gift/boutique shop owned by Renae Martin and located at 14 Commercial Ave. in Highland. For additional information Teresa can be reached at 845-834-3597.

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