PERSONAL PROTECTIVE EQUIPMENT POLICY:
Consistent with U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance, Brunswick Family Medicine will require all individuals who visit the office to wear a face covering of some sort. Visitors and patients who arrive for their appointment without a cloth face covering or mask will be provided with one, if supplies are available. If supplies are not available or masks are refused, a patient visit will be converted to a telehealth appointment if possible. If not, the appointment will need to be rescheduled.
Due to nationwide shortages of PPE (personal protective equipment), medical practices are operating with limited supplies. In order to continue operations, PPE must be conserved. Therefore, if able, we ask patients to bring their own face coverings. For additional resources, please visit: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/diy-cloth-face-coverings.html
JANUARY 6, 2021 UPDATE #2
In the ever-evolving pandemic landscape, we have received new information. We promised we would push all updates out to you…. Since scheduling the previous email yesterday afternoon, we received the most recent information in a webinar we attended in the evening on vaccine distribution with the State Health Director and Chief Medical Office of NC DHHS Dr. Betsey Tilson and other NC DHHS leaders. Key takeaway points include:
- We must continue to focus on the prevention of transmission, especially in our vulnerable populations. This means continuing to adhere to the partial stay at home order and the three Ws: Wash, Wait and Wear.
- As a state, we are moving into Phase 1b, making many of you eligible to receive the vaccine, however, availability remains a substantial obstacle. There simply is not enough supply at the moment for all eligible persons.
- On Monday, our office will begin the onboarding process to be a vaccine provider when the vaccine does become more widely available. In the meantime, you may be able to secure an appointment with local health departments and hospitals. Go to YourShotYourSpot.nc.gov to find your local health department or hospital or call the COVID-19 Line 1-877-490-6642. It’s a free call.
Finally, we strongly encourage you to get vaccinated. Getting the vaccine will help us all get back to life with family and friends, while also providing the peace of mind that you’re protected and protecting others from getting sick from COVID-19.
JANUARY 6, 2021 UPDATE
Although the state has reprioritized vaccination distribution, not everyone is moving directly into Phase 1b. Many areas across the state have not received enough vaccine to complete Phase 1a. As of today, Brunswick and New Hanover Counties have not given a timeframe but hope to in the coming days. We will push information out to all patients as soon as we get it.
NO IN-OFFICE APPOINTMENTS:
For the time being, with few exceptions, we are not doing face to face appointments. Our percent positive rate has reached as high as 16.5% and we must put your health and safety, as well as ours, first. The numbers are much higher than last spring and rising rapidly. It is more important now, than ever before, to be diligent and follow all safety guidelines and CDC recommendations. These include staying at home if at all possible. With telehealth, we are able to do that in most cases. Thank you for your patience and understanding.
Just a reminder: Labs are no longer first, come first serve. The afternoon before your labs are to be drawn, you will receive a call from Quest with an appointment time. Please answer the phone or be sure to check your voicemail for your scheduled time. It is of utmost importance that you arrive for your lab appointment at the time provided. Coming late may cause a delay and/or rescheduling of your appointment.
DECEMBER 16, 2020 UPDATE
We have had a lot of questions regarding the COVID-19 vaccination and its distribution. The NC Department of Health and Human Services Vaccination Distribution Plan aims to target the most at risk populations and will go as follows:
- Health care workers fighting COVID-19 and Long-Term Care staff and residents;
- Adults at highest risk of severe illness and those at highest risk for exposure: adults with two or more chronic conditions that put them at risk of severe illness as defined by the CDC and adults at high risk of exposure including essential frontline workers (police, food processing, teachers);
- Adults at high risk for exposure and increased risk of severe illness. These include essential frontline workers, health care workers, and those living in prisons, homeless shelters or migrant and fishery housing, adults that are 65+, and adults under 65 that have one chronic condition that puts them at additional risk;
- Students and critical industry workers like college and university students, K-12 students (when there is a vaccine approved for children), and those employed in jobs that are critical to society and at lower risk of exposure; and, finally,
- Everyone who wants a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccination.
If you qualify in the earlier phases of distribution, we will do our best to keep you informed and instruct as to when and where you can receive the vaccination. It is unlikely that we will have any vaccinations available in our office until late spring. The end is in sight but we are not there yet. Your sacrifice this holiday season is crucial for the welfare of yourself, your loved ones and those most at risk around you. Stay safe and know that we are here for you.
JUNE 10, 2020 UPDATE
As Phase 2 progresses, we wanted our patients to know that with more movement, our state has seen a rise in many metrics with increased positive cases, hospitalizations and deaths. Our percentage of positive tests is among the highest in the nation and warranted a call to the Secretary of Health from the White House COVID Task Force. Especially for those of you with underlying conditions or by virtue of age are among those most vulnerable, now is not the time for complacency. COVID-19 remains among us and as the numbers indicate, strongly so. Please take precautions to be safe and minimize risk.
Mask coverings, along with social distancing (standing at least 6’ apart) while in public and hand washing are still the very best ways you can protect yourself and others. This virus hides in plain sight within asymptomatic carriers. Recent evidence has shown that asymptomatic spread, while less likely, does still happen. Just because you feel fine or someone looks perfectly healthy, it does not mean that they do not have COVID-19. We also know relatively little about the effects of antibodies in the recovered cases and how long the immunity, if any, lasts, so protecting yourself from reinfection is necessary. Do your part to protect yourself and the vulnerable around you. Masks are required for all in-office visits without exception. (Please see our website for the BFM PPE Policy)
Now that we are increasing in-office visits for wellness exams, acute visits and labs, a few reminders:
- Upon arrival, please call and press ‘0’ to speak to the front desk. Front desk personnel will triage you appropriately for clinical staff. We apologize if we do not answer immediately, please leave a message. With our new office protocols, our call volume has increased and we ask for your patience. Do not leave messages for clinical staff or the lab.
- All patients will be asked questions and have your temperature taken prior to entering the building but additional PPE will be necessary for symptomatic patients and this will allow us to better prepare for your arrival. If you present with a temperature or positive finding on our screening questionnaire, we will need to consider the need for prior testing, evaluation by telemedicine or other means prior to entry. If you are symptomatic, please call prior to your appointment.
- If you are scheduled for lab work, please remember to wait in your car until you are asked to enter Unit 7. Again, we ask for your patience since the phlebotomist must fully sanitize the lab between each patient.
- Lastly, if you are symptomatic or have encountered a known exposure, we urge you to get tested for COVID-19. Please call us for testing information and locations.
Thank you for allowing us to care for you as we continue to navigate this new reality. Our patients are our priority. Stay safe.
MAY 21, 2020 UPDATE - Phase 2
Yesterday, Governor Cooper announced a cautious and conservative move into Phase 2 of reopening our state, effective at 5:00pm this Friday, May 22nd. We would like to offer guidance to inform your behavior, as well as explain what it means for our practice.
First, the “Stay at Home” order has been lifted and changed to “Safer at Home”. This means that while you are allowed to enter more public spaces, it doesn’t mean you should. All of the risks of COVID-19 still apply. Especially to our higher risk population over the ages of 65, who suffer from one or more chronic conditions, this virus is still dangerous to you. Therefore, it is still safer for you to stay at home.
Mask coverings are still recommended, along with social distancing (standing at least 6’ apart), while in public. This protects you and others. This virus hides in plain sight within asymptomatic carriers. Just because you feel fine or someone looks perfectly healthy, it does not mean that they do not have COVID-19. Do your part to protect yourself and the vulnerable around you. Masks are required for all in-office visits without exception. (Please see our website for the BFM PPE Policy)
Finally, many businesses that have been closed for so long now will be opening. Carefully weigh the risks to yourself and others before venturing out. If you are among the vulnerable, consider dining outside or continuing curbside pick up/delivery. Call businesses like barbershops and salons ahead of time to see what precautions they are taking before making an appointment. Pools are now open at 50% capacity with other restrictions. If you determine it is safe for you to go, remain cognizant to what you touch (like an entry gate or chair), bring sanitizer with you, and if you cannot safely distance, do not stay. We have seen first hand what this virus can do through the patients in our practice. We want you to do everything possible to stay safe and healthy in these uncertain times.
As previously announced, it is our current endeavor to open our office to more in-office visits beginning June 1st. You may have already been contacted about rescheduling canceled wellness exams. If you haven't heard from us please be patient. We will be in touch. If you are symptomatic, please call prior to your appointment. Upon arrival, you will be asked questions and have your temperature taken prior to entering the building. If you present with a temperature or positive finding on our screening questionnaire, we will need to consider the need for prior testing, evaluation by telemedicine or other means prior to entry.
It is also our intent to reopen the lab at that time. As before, labs will be first come, first serve. Upon arrival, patients will call from their car and will be called back when it is time to enter. Entrance will be through the exterior, Unit 7 LAB door, rather than through the waiting room. Please be patient. The process will be slow given our phlebotomist will need to sanitize between appointments. Be sure to bring a mask with you to lab appointments as stated above.
Thank you for allowing us to care for you. This is a new world and we hope it is comforting for you to know that we are navigating through it at your side. Our patients are our priority. Stay safe.
MAY 13, 2020 UPDATE (Phase I)
As we enter Phase I of our Governor’s plan to reopen the state, we wanted to reach out in order to let you know what this means and what our plans are moving forward.
First, we want to stress that the shelter-in-place order remains in effect and is still our number one defense to slowing the spread of COVID-19. This is most important for those of you with one or more chronic conditions given your heightened risk of infection. During Phase I, businesses that are able to follow social distancing guidelines are now allowed to operate. Safely engaging in low risk activities, like spending time outside, moving, and staying 6’ away from others is possible. When you are in public, we strongly encourage you to wear a mask. With such a large percentage of infected people presenting without any symptoms at all, it is not worth the risk of infecting yourself or others, if you are an unknowing carrier of the virus. As before, do not touch your face and wash your hands frequently.
Next, given the relaxing of restrictions, we would like to begin annual wellness exams for asymptomatic patients beginning June 1st. We also hope to bring back in-office lab services in our Southport Office at the same time pending the return of Michelle, our Quest Diagnostic Phlebotomist who has been on furlough. In the meantime, independent lab options, most of which have online scheduling, include:
- Dosher Memorial Hospital
- Dosher Wellness Center
- Quest Patient Service Center (PSC)
- LabCorp Patient Service Center (PSC)
- Brunswick Novant Hospital
Testing for COVID-19 is now widely available. If you have any symptoms or if you know that you have been exposed, get tested. Tracking this virus is one more important tool for understanding and fighting this pandemic.
If you have labs scheduled between now and June 1st, and are comfortable going to an outside lab facility, please advise our office where you would like your order sent. Labs will need to be completed at least 4 business days prior to your scheduled appointment. We will call to confirm scheduled wellness exams and begin to reschedule those missed during quarantine. Please be patient with us.
For the foreseeable future, even after June 1st, we will continue our Wait in Your Car protocols for labs and in-person visits. Routine follow-ups will continue to be conducted via telehealth and as before we will reserve the morning slots for wellness visits and do acute visits in the afternoon in order to limit exposure. We ask that you please wear a facial covering and no more than one person is allowed in the exam room with you and only if absolutely necessary.
Brunswick Family Medicine is continuously monitoring the most current recommendations from state and local officials, our ACO, and other affiliated organizations, to keep our operations up to date. We are observing and implementing every protocol to keep you safe and healthy. We look forward to seeing your faces in person once again but we must do so in the safest way.
APRIL 6, 2020 UPDATE:
As we all adjust to this new normal, the reality of COVID-19 is truly beginning to set in. We now have confirmed community spread within Brunswick County and at least one COVID-19 related death. “Community spread” means that a patient has contracted the virus from an unknown infected person or thing with whom he/she had come into contact. As a result, we have yet more changes for your protection:
Changes in volume have necessitated we reduce our office hours in order to maintain our staff and care for patients. The new hours for our Southport office are 8:00am to 4:00pm Monday through Thursday and our Wilmington office will be Tuesday, Thursday & Friday 8:00am to 3:00pm.
Because it is absolutely crucial that we keep healthy people healthy and take no undue risk, beginning April 6,2020 and thirty days thereafter, we are no longer offering routine injections (like B12 and testosterone) or lab draws. If acute tests must be conducted, we will either draw in the office or refer to a draw center.
We strongly encourage you to keep follow up appointments even without labs. This will allow your provider to continue to assess and manage chronic conditions, discuss medications, identify signs and symptoms of worsening disease, prevent hospitalization if at all possible, especially during this time, continue medication refills, and answer any questions you may have, to include those about COVID-19 and how it affects you.
If you have not done so already, sign up for our patient portal. This is a great way to communicate with our office and your provider. If you need assistance signing up please let us know. We also encourage you to like us on Facebook where we post helpful information and videos!
It is imperative that you adhere to the statewide shelter in place order. If you must go out in public, it is important to wear a mask. If you are wearing a mask and/or gloves, it is imperative that you do so properly to ensure your safety. The following video demonstrates how. https://losangeles.cbslocal.com/2020/04/02/coronavirus-doctors-dos-donts-wearing-masks-gloves/ It is our recommendation that you exercise thorough hand washing over the use of gloves that can give a false sense of security. Germs can spread just as quickly wearing gloves than without them when you are touching various surfaces and your face without washing.
Stay safe, stay healthy, stay home and remember we’re here for you.
MARCH 24, 2020 UPDATE:
LATEST UPDATE FROM THE NC DHHS AND OFFICE OF THE GOVERNOR:
As many of you are aware, yesterday brought yet more changes in testing protocol. Per the new recommendations: People with mild symptoms consistent with COVID-19 do NOT need testing and are instructed to stay at home to recover. Mild symptoms are defined as fever and cough without any of the following: shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, chest discomfort, altered thinking, cyanosis. The rationale behind these latest changes is to decrease acceleration of spread in the community and exposures in healthcare settings, to preserve resources, alternate surveillance tools can be used to track the spread and the management for most people will not be impacted given a test will not change the supportive, symptom focused treatment.
If you DO have severe symptoms, please call for further instruction. As always, however, if a true emergency, call 911.
See https://www.ncdhhs.gov/coronavirus for more information.
Brunswick Family Medicine remains available for acute care and routine follow-up care, however we have switched over to a telemedicine platform allowing for video conferencing for these visits. The goal is to decrease exposure to patients that still need to come in and/or our staff. Please keep your lab appointments and continue to follow the CALL FROM YOUR CAR protocol when you arrive. For the telemedicine visit, our staff will be in touch with you to verify the time and date of your virtual appointment, as well as determine how you wish to be provided the link for your visit (by text or email). The requirements for telemedicine visits are a device that has camera and a microphone capabilities such as a smartphone, tablet, or computer. If you have an upcoming appointment, please be prepared to advise us which you will use.
While we understand that some face to face, in office, visits will be necessary we have designated the afternoons from 1pm – 3pm for symptomatic patients. Again we will continue the CALL FROM YOUR CAR protocol when you arrive.
MARCH 20, 2020 UPDATE:
Another update from Brunswick Family Medicine with some very important announcements given the ever evolving protocols surrounding COVID-19.
Pursuant to the CDC advice to reschedule non-urgent outpatient visits, all annual wellness exams must be delayed and rescheduled. These visits will be redesignated as regular follow up visits to discuss labs and manage chronic conditions. Scheduled appointments will be converted to a telemedicine format as much as possible. You can expect to hear from our office prior to your next visit to arrange for the appropriate platform.
Some face to face visits will be necessary. Beginning March 23rd, face to face morning appointments will be allotted for healthy, asymptomatic patients only. If you have respiratory symptoms or an acute issue and it is determined that you should be seen and/or tested, we will schedule you in the afternoon between 1pm and 3pm. For all in office appointments we will continue to follow the CALL FROM YOUR CAR protocol as described in previous emails.
We understand that this is very, very different and changing our lives in this manner is not a simple undertaking. It is imperative that you take these precautions to heart. We do not say this to be alarmist but many of you are considered among at risk populations. Your best defense is to STAY HOME. Go out only as absolutely necessary.
As always, we will continue to update you as necessary. THANK YOU for being so patient with us and understanding during these uncharted times.
MARCH 16, 2020 Update:
Given the current information surrounding COVID-19 is changing literally by the hour, please bear with us as we strive to adapt and share information as it comes in. As we are sure most of you are aware, COVID-19 is a virus and there is no treatment for it. To protect vulnerable populations and attempt to suppress its spread, social distancing is among the very few things we can all do to do our part. For that reason, Brunswick Family Medicine is taking our protocols very seriously and we ask that all of you do as well.
Therefore, BEFORE ENTERING THE OFFICE please call us from your car:
If you do not get through to the front desk, you may text your INITIALS and DATE OF BIRTH to 910-363-6107 and someone will call you right back. If symptomatic, our clinical staff will triage you from there, otherwise we will place you in the cue and notify you when it is time for you to come inside.
It is important to keep regularly scheduled appointments for chronic disease management and other acute issues. BFM staff is observing all universal precautions and by keeping interactions among patients limited, will help keep all of us that much less likely to spread COVID-19.
While we are doing everything we can possibly do within our offices to protect all of us, it is imperative that you also do your part which means staying home as much as possible and exercising extreme caution while in public spaces: avoiding symptomatic persons, touching as few surfaces as possible, avoid touching your face and washing your hands or disinfecting them as soon as you leave a public space.
While we are all likely to experience cabin fever, there are things in which you can participate that might help alleviate some of the boredom:
The Metropolitan Opera will stream operas for free: https://www.vulture.com/2020/03/coronavirus-the-metropolitan-opera-to-stream-free-operas.html?fbclid=IwAR19uVKQSg5p1nX4istQJTkh6pXS1kst1vbbcDRQ207vkc0G-caQbMsOrlg
Tour Yellowstone National Park: https://www.nps.gov/yell/learn/photosmultimedia/virtualtours.htm
Travel to France and visit The Louvre virtually:
Visit the zoo by checking out live cams at places like the San Diego Zoo, Monteray Bay Aquarium, the Panda Cam at Zoo Atlanta, 6 different animal cams at the Houston Zoo, visit the belugas at the Georgia Aquarium… you get the idea!
Stay tuned. We will give you more information as we have it and THANK YOU for helping all of us do our part during these uncharted times.