By Taylor Thompson, KHP Data Analyst

COVID has made 2020 a truly unprecedented year. But, that hasn’t stopped Klamath Health Partnership (KHP) from taking care of our community. In fact, in a time where healthcare is perhaps more important than ever, KHP has had to adapt and find new ways to offer crucial services to patients—particularly the patients in underserved communities—despite the limitations presented by quarantine, social distancing, etc.

Early this year, KHP invested in a repurposed ambulance, which we outfitted with mobile lab equipment and other medical supplies. We dubbed it our Community Care Center. When the COVID-19 pandemic first began, we were asked by Klamath County Public Health to help offer COVID testing to some of the smaller, outlying towns within Klamath County that didn’t have easy access to the local hospital’s drive-up testing sites. Thanks to the Community Care vehicle, we have been able to provide testing opportunities in communities like Bonanza, Chiloquin, Merrill, Malin, and Crescent, to established KHP patients and non-established residents alike, all while interfacing seamlessly with the various laboratory systems and our own electronic health record.

Members of the COVID Busters team include Gabriella Cornelia, RN, Madison Heberling, RN, Laura Cobian, RN, Victoria Leon, CMA, and Yvette Rascon, CMA.

“One reason I went into the healthcare field is to have the opportunity to reach out to those in the community who have limited access or no access to care,” said Tiffany Fregoso, RN. “With KHP and the COVID ambulance, that is exactly what we are doing, and I feel very blessed to be a part of that.”

On mobile testing days, the testing team typically consists of a nurse and several medical assistants, but we often refer to our collective care team as “COVID Busters,” a play on Ghostbusters. Not only is it a way to create community engagement, it’s also a fun way to empower and motivate our team in a challenging time. The moniker became so popular, a production team helped us create a COVID Busters parody music video.

KHP RN Laura Cobian summed up this mindset perfectly when asked what it meant to be a COVID Buster. “In a crazy time with so many doors getting closed due to COVID, we needed a creative way to not only help keep our doors open, but also expand the way we serve our community,” she said. “I get to be part of the change we all need right now. One testing site at a time. We make an impact in keeping our community healthy and breaking down barriers to accessing COVID testing.”

Medical assistant Yvette Rascon added a perfect quote from the late NFL coach Vince Lombardi: “The achievements of an organization are the results of the combined effort of every individual.”

COVID testing alone isn’t the only service KHP has provided during this outreach. “If a patient tests positive, we instruct them to quarantine and even help them with resources for housing, finance, and other health services if needed,” medical assistant Lexi Dow explained. “Working at Klamath Health Partnership during this time has really shown me how our community can come together and find solutions to problems.”

At this point, KHP has tested nearly 1,000 people at the Community Care Center, focusing on underserved people and groups within our 6,000-square-mile county. This has included not only people in outlying communities, but also residents of retirement and/or long-term care facilities (as well as employees) and the migrant worker populations at Planasa and other local corporate farms. If there’s a group of people that might struggle to access needed COVID testing—whether due to distance, finances, or mobility—KHP simply takes testing to them.

RN Madison Heberling and CMA Victoria Leon explain the COVID-19 testing process to employees at a local farm.

“Being a part of the COVID Busters testing team means we get to help keep our community safe,” added Devin Garman, medical assistant. “It feels good to be a part of that.”

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