Fort Bragg, CA – Last week, the North Coast’s non-profit health center, Mendocino Coast Clinics, was able to secure a shipment of 5,000 medical masks to protect employees, patients, and visitors from COVID-19. To help raise funds for this purchase, MCC invites community members to support its “We Ask for a Mask” campaign on May 5. The campaign is part of #GivingTuesdayNow (now.givingtuesday.org), a global movement encouraging people to give back to their communities in any way they can during an emergency response to the COVID-19 virus.
The MCC masks were secured through connections initiated by a supporter of MCC’s annual fundraiser. Tawny MacMillan, who coordinates the fundraiser, said, “This extraordinary feat [of securing masks] means that providers, nurses, medical assistants, behavioral health counselors, the dental and pediatric staff, everyone will be further protected during the COVID-19 crisis – and not have to reuse masks. That, in turn, means we can meet our ultimate goal: to further protect our patients.”
Each mask costs five dollars so, MacMillan explained, every small donation will have a big impact. In this case, five dollars can save a life.” Those interested in supporting MCC, can visit the health center’s website at mendocinocoastclinics.org/donate.
More than a month ago, when news of the pandemic hit, MCC proactively safeguarded patients and staff by investing in telehealth, setting up a triage tent in the parking lot to isolate potential COVID-19 cases, and stocking up on personal protective equipment (PPE) such as masks, gowns, and gloves. This type of preparation is crucial in a rural environment such as the Mendocino Coast with limited access to acute care services.
MCC also sought grant funding to offset the costs of responding to COVID-19. It awaits news from some funders, but in the meantime, it is putting federal funding and a generous donation of $5,000 from the Mendocino Coast Healthcare Foundation to good use. The federal monies are funding salaries and other essential expenses, and the MCHF donation is being used to expand telehealth services, specifically to purchase Doxy—a secure telehealth online subscription.
MCC Executive Director Lucresha Renteria said, “We are very grateful to MCHF. Especially in light of COVID-19, we are leaning on technology more than ever. This funding will help defray some of the costs as we purchase more tablets and laptops, pay for broadband, and subscribe to online telemedicine services,” she explained.
Services such as behavioral health and non-essential medical appointments have been converted to phone and telehealth video calls. For essential healthcare services that require face-to-face meetings, MCC continues to see patients at their health centers or, in the case of the Coastal Street Medicine program, at local shelters and churches. MCC regularly sends a registered nurse, a case manager, and a translator to the Hospitality House and Presbyterian Church to provide COVID-19 health checks and basic medical care, including wound care.
MCC Medical Director Dr. Lawrence Goldyn applauded MCC employees in a recent letter, in which he also shared some insights about providing care during a crisis, those he gathered as a provider during the early years of the HIV epidemic.
“Here are some of the things I have learned. People are scared. It brings out the best and the worst in them. We will see both the good and the bad in expected, and sometimes unexpected, places. We will see selfish hoarding, stigmatizing and abandonment of the ill. We will also witness breathtaking selflessness and kindness.
Embrace your fear. Do not let it overwhelm you. Talk to your family, colleagues, and friends about your fears, but pay attention to your audience. If you seem afraid to those who look to you for guidance, you might scare them even more. If you feel overwhelmed, look for professional help without embarrassment.
Find solace at whatever altar comforts you. This might include a traditional house of worship, the woods, or the seashore. It might be a quiet place in your home or your garden.
Stand up for science. Science is the antidote to the ignorance that promotes fear. Science will bring us back to some kind of normalcy. I saw great scientists mocked and harassed during the early days of the HIV epidemic. They stuck to their principles. Ultimately, they saved millions of lives. They rank among my heroes.
Be proud of what you are doing. Embrace your heroism but do it with humility. This capacity to do monumental work fell into our laps. Some people spend a lifetime looking for something to participate in that is bigger than themselves. What we do here is beyond important. We are not caring for patients in Intensive Care Units, but we are saving lives. If you doubt how heroic your work is, go online and search for ‘applause for health care workers.’ I applaud all of you.”