Community Spotlight: Amador Health Center “The Hope” in Las Cruces
The NM First Team (NMF) recently asked Pamela Angell, Executive Director of Amador Health Center in Las Cruces, how things were going. Amador Health Center is on the grounds of the Mesilla Valley Community of Hope. The Community provides services to the residents of Camp Hope, a self-governing community of individuals who had been experiencing homelessness. Or, as Pamela tells us, referred to by the residents as “the Hope. Short and Sweet.”
New Mexico First (NMF):How is your community being affected in these times?
Pamela Angell (PA): Here at Amador Health Center, in Las Cruces, Doña Ana County, we continue to feel like we have escaped the brunt of the Covid-19 pandemic in New Mexico and the rest of the nation. However, we are preparing for a surge, just in case. Our county has only had one death so far [as of April 20, 2020], although Covid-19 testing and positive cases increase daily in our county. We wonder, is it a lack of testing, or is social distancing really having a great effect. We just don’t know.
Of the 4 Covid-19 tests we have done for people who fit the criteria of symptomatic, we have had 4 negative results.
While most staff and patients are feeling different levels of fear and anxiety about Covid19, it appears that a sense of duty is outweighing those fears. Only two of 30 staff have gone on leave due to being at high risk or living with someone vulnerable and at risk.
NMF: Are you doing anything differently, and if so, in what way(s)?
PA:The rest of us follow all of the protocols set forth by our Medical Director, Fatima McElveen, and Compliance Officer, Ron Fitzherbert. This includes: Temperature and screening of all staff and others coming into the facility, including contractors and delivery persons; washing hands frequently for 20 seconds or more with soap and water; outside screening/triage area; masks on patients/clients entering the facility; N-95 masks on all staff who are spending time within 6 feet of patients/clients whether they have symptoms or not; surgical masks for all staff seeing patient/clients; seeing patients/clients telephonically in an outside exam area; telehealth; limiting face-to-face contact; no meetings greater than 5 people; optional masks for staff not interacting with patients; providers performing Covid-19 or flu testing or spending any time with someone with symptoms are suited up with face shield, N-95 mask, gloves and gown.
NMF:What are the assets and needs you see as immediate and long-term concerns?
PA:We continue to be short of PPE, so are reusing some that are designed for single use. We really need face shields, N-95 masks, gowns, and Covid-95 swab tests. Of the 10 we were given by NM Dept. of Health, we have six left.
We have not had to lay anyone off and successfully submitted and was accepted for the initial Payroll Protection Loan program. We should be receiving the cash equivalent of two months payroll any day now. This has really helped us keep staff employed while our patient/client contacts have been reduced about 50%, and hence, our income through insurance billing including Medicaid/Medicare/Private Insurance.
NMF: Is there anything you’d like to share with the rest of the state?
PA: While we are fortunate that Covid-19 is advancing in our county slowly, not much more than a handful of new cases each day, we are mindful that this outbreak down here can increase, and we are adjusting our policies and procedures toward that. We hope we can say that we were overprepared to meet this crisis. But still we are not sure. We really appreciate the lessons learned from others around the state who we see sometimes daily on Zoom and web calls and the numerous emails that we receive every day. We are in this together. We feel for those who do not have the financial means to make it through this crisis. We are grateful that we do not suffer that problem at this time. We spent 25 years a few days from shutting our doors and have not had to feel that in the present. For that, we are grateful, but not taking anything for granted.
Peace, be well, be well-masked, and keep social distance. Hopefully, one day, we all will be able to hug our loved ones and dance in the streets again.