LEE COUNTY – With the Lee County Board of Supervisor’s vote on April 7th to keep county buildings closed to the public through April 30, 2020, Lee County Health Department staff have been thinking “outside the box” and finding new ways to provide continued services.
“Our services are offered throughout the life span so we have found creative ways to continue our Maternal and Child Health programs, our HOPES home visiting services, and our Home Care and Hospice programs.” states Michele Ross, LCHD Administrator. “It is how they continue that has changed a bit.”
When the decision was made to close the buildings, and for staff to practice social distancing staff reached out to families enrolled in HOPES and Maternal Health programs to see what form of communication would work best for them. Telehealth, an approved video chat format, or an old fashion phone call were the options for many families. “For HOPES, we follow up after phone calls with emails for curriculum and information sharing,” says Amy Cook, Family Support Worker.
For the Maternal Health program education to expectant mothers like stages of baby’s growth, tobacco cessation if needed, and general what to expect when baby comes, plus more, continues.
“Although we miss the more personal, in-person interaction with our clients, we are happy that we are still able to provide support and guidance to these expectant mothers,” adds Jillian Ireland, RN, Maternal-Child & Adolescent Health Program Nurse. “We have also reached out to our partnering OB offices about any changes they have implemented in their office due to COVID-19, so we are able to inform our clients as well.”
The 1st Five Program works with families with children 0-5 on developmental skills, and can be a connection between families and service providers. Not only can providers get ahold of 1st Five Coordinators at the LCHD office, they can also fax (844) 296-0282 with information.
For programs like Child Health, Homecare, and Hospice social distancing can be difficult, however, providing quality care to clients, especially those at high risk is extremely important right now. “Our staff nurses and homecare aides are wearing the appropriate PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) when they go into a client’s home,” says Becky Worster, LCHD Community Health/Nursing Program Director.
Homecare aides are still assisting clients with their needs. Hospice clients and families are still receiving nursing visits, and needed support during this difficult time. “Right now, it is even a more difficult time for families, but our staff continue to step up to the plate to make sure that clients and families have what they need,” adds Worster.
Some of the programs, like Food Inspections and Oral Health Programs, have suspended services due to programs social distancing issues. The Department of Inspections and Appeals has suspended all routine inspections for the State of Iowa, with exceptions of pre-openings, follow-up inspections, complaint inspections, etc. If a restaurant or the public have questions or concerns the LCHD Environmental Inspections are available for the counties they serve.
The Environmental Department is continuing with septic inspections. “We are doing as much as we can through emails and phone calls, but we still have to complete onsite inspections. When we do an onsite inspection we are practicing social distancing,” adds Mike Shelangoski, LCHD Environmental Program Director.
For oral health programs, much of the programming takes place in schools or long-term care facilities, two places that are either closed or not allowing visitors. “Although this is normally a very busy time with our school sealant and preschool fluoride varnish programs, we have been following up with clients and staying in touch with dental offices,” states Rachael Patterson-Rahn, LCHD I-Smile™ Coordinator.
Some programs are still on hold like Immunization Clinics, TB Clinics, and Senior Health Clinics which remain closed through the month of April. “At the end of the month we will reassess our availability and make decisions based on what the Governor and the Board of Supervisor’s recommendations are,” adds Ross.
Overall, Lee County Health Department remains open to public, by phone at least. Call (319)372-5225 or (800)458-6672 regarding information on programs. Information can also be found at www.leecountyhd.org.