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Guest commentary: We're eager to serve all

5/9/2020

This guest column was written by Nancy E. Richman, project director at HealthNet Bloomington Health Center, and appeared in the May 9, 2020 issue of the Bloomington Herald-Times.

There’s a new health care provider in town: HealthNet Bloomington Health Center.

Formerly Volunteers in Medicine (VIM), HealthNet Bloomington is a nonprofit, federally qualified health center (FQHC), with a mission statement that could just as easily describe VIM: To improve lives with compassionate health care and support services, regardless of ability to pay.

As an FQHC, HealthNet Bloomington expands the scope of services well beyond what was previously offered by VIM. This includes serving children, adults and seniors — with and without insurance — from all geographic areas. In other words, there are no restrictions on who can come to the HealthNet Bloomington clinic.

The doors to the HealthNet Bloomington Health Center opened to patients in early January 2020. Little did we know that barely two months after opening our doors, we would be in the midst of a pandemic!

Moreover, in early January, we also began a substantial facility renovation to double the number of patient exam rooms, open the reception/waiting areas, add an enrollment center, denture lab, phlebotomy lab and draw station, and other amenities to better serve our patients. Now, finally, the construction is complete, providers have been recruited, and despite COVID-19, the clinic is ready to welcome new patients.

While COVID is the overriding focus right now, individuals are still faced with chronic conditions — diabetes, hypertension, asthma, allergies, colds, flu and so forth — that also need ongoing care. For that matter, acute conditions — such as a sprained ankle, poison ivy and bee stings — also may need medical attention.

Clinic personnel are taking every precaution to minimize potential exposure risk to COVID-19, so individuals can feel confident and safe coming to the clinic. For example, telemedicine and virtual care have quickly become important tools in caring for patients across the country. Established patients at HealthNet Bloomington can schedule medical appointments using either telemedicine or video-medicine.

This approach is particularly important to help provide routine care for patients with chronic diseases who are at high risk if exposed to the virus. New patients must have one face-to-face appointment at the clinic before they can access remote appointments. However, the clinic has implemented several precautions to minimize exposure.

First, patients calling to schedule an appointment are screened over the phone by a nurse and referred, as needed. For patients coming to the clinic, another screening will take place at the tent in the yard near the main entrance.

Patients are asked to wear a mask to their appointment. If you don’t have a mask, one will be given to you. Please do not bring anyone with you, unless you need them to assist you, as visitors are asked to wait in the car or outside to minimize the risk of exposure for them or the clinic staff.

For people without insurance, our clinic navigators will help enroll you in whatever insurance plan for which you are eligible.

Most importantly, the completed renovation now allows us to use a separate entrance, offices and exam rooms in a different wing of the building for people with no COVID-type symptoms. The HealthNet Bloomington Health Center is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday and from 8 a.m. to noon on Fridays. Given the many school and daycare closures, we have temporarily suspended evening hours.

We are confident that we have a safe environment in which to serve both established and new patients. To schedule an appointment, please call 812-333-4001.

HealthNet Bloomington Health Center: Your health. Our passion. We welcome you to our clinic.