Free Health Clinic continues to adjust services during pandemic

Medical Director Dr. Charles Maresh (left) updates Free Health Clinic staff on “keeping your work family healthy” during an outdoor meeting last week.
July 1, 2020

Services at the Northern Neck – Middlesex Free Health Clinic, which have continued with modifications throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, are being further adjusted as Virginia phases in its reopening.

“We’ve been able to stay open and deliver patient care in new ways during this crisis,” said Clinic CEO Jean Nelson. “This includes some creative initiatives, such as giving blood pressure monitors to patients to help manage their hypertension between visits, redesigning the Dental Clinic, making more use of telehealth services, closely tracking inventory, and delivering medicines outside of the building.”

New patients continue being welcome for medical, dental, and pharmaceutical care, including 28 individuals in the last month alone. Eligibility screenings for Clinic health care are held daily by phone, and appointments are scheduled accordingly. Call 804-435-0575 for more information, and visit or the Clinic Facebook page for income guidelines. Medicaid recipients as well as un- and underinsured residents are welcome.

The Medical Clinic has kept up its regular hours for the past three months and resumes a full schedule this week, with patient visits a mix of in-person and by phone. The providers and medical staff will determine the type of visit needed prior to the appointments.

“We’ve ordered and are receiving both blood pressure monitors and thermometers to give to patients for use at home,” Nelson said, and if an in-person visit is needed, all CDC guidelines are being followed.

Clinic protocols include taking patient temperatures outside of the building, where a survey also is completed. Anyone feeling sick is brought inside through a separate entrance into a designated exam room. Temperatures of all staff are taken daily, and masks are worn at all times.

Covid-19 tests have been difficult to obtain, but a limited number are now available on site, she said. Meanwhile, the inventory of personal protection equipment – face shields, N-95 and surgical masks, gloves, gowns, bouffant caps, goggles, and disposable shoe covers – has been closely managed since early February.

“We’ve been able to get an additional vendor involved in providing this equipment, and three vendors currently are being used,” she said. “We’re in good shape now, and donors have stepped up to help fund some of the purchases. At the same time, obtaining the PPE is critical and will continue being a challenge. We are staying on top of our supply status.”

In the Pharmacy, staff will begin filling a second series of 90-day prescriptions (increased from the normal 30 days) in June. Patients should call at designated times to request the refills and to make sure their prescriptions are ready before driving to the Clinic to pick them up. Medicines are delivered to patient cars to reduce traffic inside the building.

The Dental Clinic continues being open for emergencies, based on consultations with the staff dentist, and appointments for dentures will resume in the next week.

“We’ve installed plastic wall shields to isolate each of the six operatories, and patients, wearing a mask, will be escorted in directly from their cars to the individual chairs,” Nelson said. “The Dental Clinic space has undergone a thorough reorganization.”

The Clinic’s patients in all departments “are grateful and understanding, offering many kind words,” she said.  “We also deeply appreciate the donors who have helped us keep up our inventory and remain open during this difficult time. Our staff has gone above and beyond. At a time when we all miss our volunteers, we’re even more grateful for the community’s support, whatever form it takes.”