Under pressure from county commissioners, and with the help of emergency funding from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, PanCare Health opened a testing site in Eastpoint Wednesday
PanCare, headquartered in Panama City and which operates a dental clinic in Carrabelle, ,plans to keep the site, which is across from the Eastpoint post office, open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
To help fund it, PanCare received $97,607 through HHS’s Health Resources and Services Administration, one of 47 health centers in Florida to share in $4.52 million from the Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2020, signed into law by President Trump on March 6.
Health center recipients in Florida may use these awards to address screening and testing needs, acquire medical supplies and boost their telehealth capacity in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Sean Golder, PanCare’s regional operations manager, said the drive-through testing site has a provider onsite, accessible through telehealth. He said patients will not be charged, and those with private insurance will have their insurer billed.
Fore the time being, the testing is designed only for those who are symptomatic for the coronavirus, which the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) has said showing signs of fever, cough and shortness of breath.
Those with questions can call PanCare’ call center at 850-215-4181. It is then they receive a unique number and time block, provided they meet the criteria.
"We’re working with the Florida Department of Health and others to lift restraints," said Golder.
"The idea is to push everyone that needs to be screened away for hospitals and clinics," said Weems Interim CEO David Walker. "The idea is that people can get tested outside clinics and hospitals. I hope they can test more people
First responders and health care workers, and anyone who has immediate contact with those who have been confirmed to be positive for the coronavirus are given top priority.
The test site will first screen for two types of the more common flu, and for strep throat. If they come back negative, they do a test for COVID-19, which takes about 20 to 25 minutes for the whole process.
PanCare’s dental clinic in Carrabelle, at the former municipal building, remains open, but only for emergencies.
North Florida Medical Centers Inc., which oversees the Eastpoint Medical Center, received $77,459 in the emergency funding.
Those funds are for the purchase of additional personal protection equipment (PPE) for all 10 locations that NFMC serves.
At last week’s county commission meeting, Chairman Noah Lockley blasted NFMC for what it said were diversions of resources earmarked for Franklin County.
In a telephone interview following the meeting. NFMC CEO Lane Lunn said the company, including the Eastpoint clinic, has been adhering to CDC guidelines, relying on the clinical judgment of its providers.
She said the clinic’s tests are sent to a private lab, which takes at least four or five days to come back. "We’ve done more than 25 across our locations," she said.
Lane said the sliding scale for patients remains in place, with the cost of a visit as inexpensive at $10.
She said NFMC has provided test kits to PanCare, and is prepared to provide clinical support if requested.
She said she has been in contact with PanCare CEO Mike Hill, who approved the mobile site last week after a request from Walker.
NFMC has also received an additional $1.01 million in emergency help from HHS, which she said will go towards operations at all 10 centers, divvied up based on volume. PanCare received an additional $1.35 million.
Lane said patient counts have dropped in half, since people are reluctant to come in based on the stay at home order.
NFMC’s healthcare workers are asking patients to not bring children to the adult’s medical appointments. Patients should call the center before coming in. Eastpoint Medical Center can be reached at 670-8585.