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Clinic director discusses how care is changing

The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has affected many different groups and individuals in the county. There have been 30 cases and four deaths in Stanly County.

One of the organizations that has been impacted has been the John P. Murray Community Care Clinic in Albemarle. Originally founded in 1998, with the help of local retired physician Dr. John Murray, the clinic serves people between the ages 18 to 64 who have no health insurance and whose total income is 250 percent of the federal poverty guidelines or less.

The Stanly News & Press reached out to Executive Director Chris Vaughn to see how the clinic has been dealing with the pandemic.

Chris Vaughn is the executive director of the clinic. Photo courtesy of Chris Vaughn

How important is the community care clinic at a time like this?

In today’s world, everyone is struggling with so many different things, such as fear, changes in their daily routine, balancing working remotely and becoming homeschool teachers for their young children. Others are being hit with the reality of losing their jobs and possibly their health insurance. The John P. Murray Community Care Clinic is here to provide medical care for adults in Stanly County who have no health insurance. If someone had health insurance, he or she may have never paid much attention to resources such as this. At times like these, it’s important for our community to know they are not alone and that we’re here to help with care and medications. 

How has the community care clinic been most impacted by the coronavirus pandemic?

Starting in mid-March, the clinic stopped routine office visits. However, patients can still come to the clinic in the mornings to pick up their medications. We’ve been able to establish new patients through telehealth and help them get the medical care they need. We hope to begin seeing patients on a regular schedule again by the end of May or first of June, given we have appropriate PPE (personal protective equipment) for both our staff and patients. 

Has the clinic seen an increase in the number of patients during the past month?

We have had a few new patients call the clinic, but we expect this number to grow as the pandemic continues and unemployment increases.

What are the safety measures the clinic has been taking? Where does the clinic stand on available PPE?

Once they are screened and provided a surgical mask at the door, patients can come into the clinic one person at a time between 9 a.m. and noon to get medication refills or address urgent medical needs. They remain in the lobby and our staff communicates with them through a window, while also wearing PPE. Once we resume normal hours of operation, the clinic will need additional PPE and that is difficult to obtain at the moment.

Can you talk about the new telemedicine program that community clinics across the state have adopted? 

Telehealth has been very important to community free clinics during this time. All patients are contacted before their routine appointments. As an RN, I am able to triage any concerns an individual may have and speak with the provider to address their concerns. We have found that most patients are abiding by the Stay-at-Home orders and as a result, there are fewer complaints of common health problems normally seen during this time of year.

How do patients pick up their medications?

The Community Care Clinic works with Medical Pharmacy to provide patients with most of their medications, but other items such as insulin and inhalers, provided in partnership with pharmaceutical companies, are available for pick up at the clinic during morning office hours.  

How can uninsured individuals apply to become patients?

Any adult who needs a healthcare provider may call the clinic at 980-323-4668 and we will be happy to assist them. Two of the most important criteria are that they are uninsured and live in Stanly County.

Do you think the pandemic will change how the John P. Murray Community Care Clinic and other community clinics in the state operate in the future?

I expect this pandemic to change the way free and charitable clinics across North Carolina, including the John P. Murray Community Care Clinic, care for patients. A positive result of the COVID-19 pandemic is our ability to use telehealth to access and utilize the expertise of different providers throughout our area.

Patients have been very appreciative of the services they receive in the clinic. Some who have received stimulus checks have come by to make an extra donation to the clinic, even though they may not have enough money for the things they need. It really feels like we are all a big family caring for each other.

For more information visit https://communitycareclinicalbemarle.org or call 980-323-4668.

About Chris Miller

Chris Miller has been with the SNAP since January 2019. He is a graduate of NC State and received his Master's in Journalism from the University of Maryland. He previously wrote for the Capital News Service in Annapolis, where many of his stories on immigration and culture were published in national papers via the AP wire.

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