Your Say: March 26-April 2, 2020

Fountain pen writing

EDITOR’S NOTE: You may know Dr. Wayne Bierbaum as Bay Weekly’s Creature Feature columnist and photographer, but his day job puts him on the front lines of the local COVID-19 response. Here, he gives insight on virus testing in the community. 

Letter to the Editor, 

I am the Chief Medical Officer for Bay Community Health (BCH). BCH is a non-profit federally subsidized Community Health Center in southern Anne Arundel County. It was created in the 1970s by a community board of directors in order to provide health care to the medically under-served. It is still managed and “owned” by a community Board of Director. We are dedicated in improving the health of Maryland as a whole. We have partnerships with the State and County Health Departments, Department of Health and Human Services, Anne Arundel Medical Center, Quest and LabCorp.  

Several weeks ago, we started planning for what we should do when the COVID-19 virus entered the state. We have centralized our activities to one site in West River, created a robust phone call center manned by RNs and LPNs. They are trained and have a COVID-19 template to follow. Most of our provider-patient contacts are by phone or video but if they truly need to come in, they are screened while they are in their cars and walked back to a pre-bleached exam room without them touching any surfaces. When their visit is over, they leave again with attempts of them not to touch any surfaces. Also, to protect the staff we will have half our staff doing tele-work.   

We did order COVID-19 testing through Quest and received 20 tests. The people that have called with COVID-19 symptoms were initially phone triaged and given an appointment. The medical provider, gowned, gloved and masked, has met them in our parking lot and re-screened them and if the CDC criteria to do testing was met, then they were tested. As a service to our community, we have been phone screening and testing anyone that calls even if they are not our patients. However, as of 3/20/20, our office will be out of COVID-19 tests and despite our partnerships, it is unlikely that more tests will be coming. Despite physical and financial costs, we do plan to continue our health care, screening, teaching and psychological services throughout this urgent time 

Almost all people we have screened and meet the criteria for a COVID-19 infection we have asked them to self-isolate and let others they have been in contact with be aware. Only those with severe shortness of breath are referred to the Emergency Room.  

It is important to avoid close contact with others. Stay at home. When getting outside food remove the cooked food into your container discard the packaging and then wash your hands. Washing with soap is the best way to clean your hands -saying Happy Birthday twice. Use sanitizers after touching surfaces that others have touched – even door handles. Keep your hands away from your face. If you do feel ill and are concerned – call your provider.  

–Wayne Bierbaum, MD 

Chief Medical Officer, Bay Community Health, West River