THIBODAUX - Teche Action Clinic of Thibodaux launched telemedicine this week, as it continues to fight against COVID-19.
The clinic opened in September of 2014, at 1709 Ridgefield Rd in Thibodaux.
Its mission is treat patients on a sliding fee scale basis, regardless of whether they have insurance, Medicaid, Medicare, or no insurance.
Dr. Gary Wiltz is the Chief Executive Officer of Teche Action Board, Inc., the 501c3
non-profit organization that operates the clinic, which is also known as a Community Health Center.
"COVID-19 is a pandemic that remains somewhat of a mystery, as we still don't know its full effects," Wiltz said.
As part of its mitigation plan to battle the disease, Teche Action Clinic launched
"Patients can receive quality healthcare from the convenience of home, using their I-Phone, or Android," Wiltz said.
The services are offered through a free and secure ELVI App, which can be found on Google Play or the Apple Store.
Utilizing ELVI, a patient can conduct video sessions with a licensed provider, and get consultations online.
Paulette Lofton, Chief Operating Officer of the organization, said persons must schedule a Telehealth visit by calling 337-828-2550, and expressing their needs to one of the clinic's appointment personnel.
Meanwhile, Wiltz said the clinic is also collecting samples from patients, in the wake of the virus.
He said before any patient enters the building, they must call the clinic at 985-446-7341, and either book an appointment, or say they are a walk-in and would like an appointment.
At that point, the patient will undergo pre-screened questions over the phone, which include: asking the patient whether or not they have travelled to China, Iran, South Korea, Italy or Japan, as well as whether or not any of their household members have traveled anywhere within the United States, even locally in the last 14 days.
The pre-screening questions also ask whether the patient is experiencing fever, cough, shortness of breath or sore throat.
When the patient arrives to the clinic, they are once again screened and triaged, with someone taking their temperature.
Wiltz encourages the public to continually wash hands, practice social distancing and stay at home if all possible, as they say the virus is spread from person to person.
"We have been collecting samples from our patients and sending those samples off to be tested, to determine whether or not any of our patients have tested positive for the virus. As now, no results have returned positive," he said.
Teche Action Clinic is Louisiana's first Community Health Center, having opened in the summer of 1974 to treat sugar cane migrant workers in Franklin.
The Franklin clinic is the main campus of the organization which includes 14 other sites, six of which are school based clinics.
Wiltz said his staff is juggling measures between persons who believe they may have COVID-19 symptoms and those who have the flu, diabetes and heart issues. This is also colorectal cancer prevention month.
"We're asking our patients to call ahead before they enter our building. However, if their symptoms are severe, they should go to the emergency room," he said.
Wiltz is also screening all of his employees and vendors daily, to see if they have a temperature below 100, in order to be allowed into the building.
"The public needs to know that there is no immediate test available - it's taking three to four days to get test results back," he said. "If anyone comes to us and the answers to the survey questions are highly probable, we will send them home on orders to self-quarantine, until results are determined."
He said hand washing should also be at least a minute if not more.
"The only way to figure out the penetration of the disease, is to keep testing, and testing," Wiltz said.
"Those who are highest risk are people over 60, who have other conditions, like heart disease, a history of cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure, lupus; also those in nursing homes are particularly vulnerable," he said. "If we can get to a peak, and the curve starts flattening, and we're not having new cases, then we've reached a plateau and hopefully it will start dropping off."
Wiltz recommends not going out and congregating, even to funerals and weddings. Most large gatherings in Louisiana have been postponed or canceled due to social distancing measures.
"This virus can be passed on from sneezing, as well as touching something and then touching your face," he said. "If you think you are symptomatic (develop fever, or if symptoms progress from mild to severe), please let us know so that we can ensure proper isolation protocols are implemented upon arrival."
Teche Action Clinic is accredited by the Joint Commission as a Primary Care Medical Home.
The community health center also operates another location in Galliano, at 121 W. 134th Street, 985.325.3607. That site, however, offers primarily behavioral health.
Teche Action Clinic of Thibodaux is open Mondays thru Thursdays from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and on Fridays, from 7:30 a.m. to Noon.