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Rocky Ford Clinic switches to telehealth after employees test positive for COVID-19

Posted at 8:01 PM, Oct 28, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-29 08:28:21-04

ROCKY FORD — With COVID-19 cases rising all across southern Colorado, some health clinics are pivoting to telehealth.

Otero County Public Health declared both Rocky Ford Clinic and La Junta Clinic as outbreak sites. Both clinics have three or more employees with positive results. Las Animas Clinic has had only one employee test positive and is not considered an outbreak site by Bent County Public Health.

In an effort to protect Valley-Wide’s patients and staff, medical services have temporarily been converted at Rocky Ford Clinic and Las Animas Clinic to telehealth only. Dental services at Rocky Ford Clinic are being rescheduled, however, Las Animas Clinic is open for dental services. The employees who tested positive are being isolated at home until they are declared safe to return to work.

Terry Miller, Business Manager at Rocky Ford Health Center LLC, says they haven't seen many positive cases.

"We are a little bit isolated from what's happening in the cities and other areas. Our counts have been pretty low, especially in the clinic. Since May 1, we've tested 25 people and that's through September 30. We had two positive results in late July," said Miller.

Rocky Ford Health Center LLC and Rocky Ford Clinic are the only clinics in the town. Since Rocky Ford Clinic switched to telehealth appointments only, some are worried people could miss out on much-needed care.

"It's just the federally qualified health clinic or it's us in Rocky Ford, that's it," said Miller. "A lot of people don't have transportation, that is always a problem. We do see a lot of people that are in marginalized populations."

Miller says they won't close their doors unless a staff member tests positive for the virus. With Rocky Ford Clinic doing telehealth only, they expect to get some calls from their patients. The clinic does not do walk-ins, but they're accepting new patients for those interested.

According to Miller, additional funding from HRSA will help provide more testing capabilities to Rocky Ford.

" We've received funding to purchase testing equipment, to retrofit a room for testing, do whatever outside. Whatever is needed for COVID-19 testing," said Miller.

News 5 spoke with Janet Penrod who says she's taking extra precautions to stay healthy, especially with the rise in COVID-19 cases.

"I stay at home as much as possible and only go to town when I need to," said Penrod.

She says with the clinic switching to telehealth, more people may travel to Pueblo or other places for care.

"For a foot doctor or heart specialist. We have none here. I go pueblo for different appointments," said Penrod.

Valley Wide Health Systems Inc expects to resume face-to-face services on November 4. They understand that accessing the Rocky Ford Clinic and Las Animas Clinic is not always easy, so they've made the Valley-Wide Ride temporarily available in the Arkansas Valley. If you need free transportation for non-emergent healthcare services, call (833) 350-1113.