We will not abandon our patients.
We are living in scary times, and right now it seems like COVID-19 has the upper hand. We at FIGHT are currently grappling with how to best serve our patients, protect our staff, and contribute in meaningful ways to the resolution of the crisis caused by the COVID-19 epidemic. We think we have a pretty good plan, which you can see below in this message.
But first I want to remind you that we were made for times like these.
Philadelphia FIGHT was founded in an epidemic. We learned then what it was like to be faced with a seemingly uniformly fatal disease that we knew little about, hitting marginalized groups of people – gay men, African American and Hispanic people, IV drug users, and low-income women – and we faced an epidemic where there was no treatment, no services, and most strikingly, no assistance whatsoever from the Federal government. Many if not most of the people who came forward either knew at the time they were infected or feared that they were or would be. Yet into that void walked huge numbers of activists, doctors, families, and friends who cared for dying people before we knew how HIV was spread, often when they knew they could be next, and before they knew for sure how to avoid compromising their own personal safety. For well over a decade these activists and healthcare professionals worked, sometimes together, and sometimes in opposition but with mutual respect, to discover, develop and test drugs, to gain government resources, to pass legislation like the Ryan White CARE Act, and in the end, to be part of a solution that has saved millions of lives around the globe. This is our heritage at FIGHT.
While we no longer exclusively serve people with HIV, we have retained our historic commitment to the marginalized, the stigmatized, and those who lack the resources to weather events such as we are seeing now.
Now, faced with a different epidemic, where the risks are not entirely known, and where the government’s response has fallen far short of the need, we are faced with a clear choice. We know that marginalized communities like those we serve tend to do the worst in any epidemic. We know that this epidemic spreads more quickly in overcrowded situations like homeless shelters or congregate housing that many of our guests and participants utilize on a daily basis. We know there is virtually no plan to care for the people most without resources in the city.
We also know that our patients, including those with more resources, need our continuing care. We know that as some of our population ages they are also living with other health challenges – cancer, heart disease, arthritis, and others – where we coordinate their care in an environment where they feel respected and safe. We know that we are an important lifeline for many people, and not just in our clinical spaces. The community we have built here sustains and nurtures many people and they do not want to lose the anchor it provides. The most important lifesaving service we offer is, of course, our health centers. The Lax Center, John Bell Health Center, Clinica Bienestar FIGHT at Broad St. Ministry, YHEP, Pediatrics, and Family Dental along with TREE and Diana Baldwin, offer our patients extraordinary care in a manner that respects their dignity as individuals and often can contribute to changing their lives. When a true crisis, like the COVID-19 epidemic hits, it is vital to our patients that we be able to communicate with them, see them if needed, and direct their care.
Our choice is we will not abandon our patients.
Right now, our health centers are open but with some important operational changes.
Here is the most important information, and please pay attention:
First, none of our health centers will see anyone who has not called in advance.
There will be no walk-ins whatsoever. If you want to come in for a visit you need to call.
An important additional reason to call is we may be able to manage your situation on the phone. As an example, call us if you need to get your medicines delivered to you. We want to help you avoid crowds at the drugstore as much as you want to avoid them.
I wish this was not the case, but, we really mean it about no walk-ins. If somebody just shows up they will not be allowed in. If we do not do this, we will be putting everyone in danger, including other patients who need help, as well as medical staff.
Second, no new patients will be accepted. You must be an existing patient.
Third, without our permission, some websites have listed us as a COVID-19 testing site. We are not a testing site.
We are testing our existing patients when we can get tests, but no one else. Tests are only just beginning to be available, and there are not nearly enough to go around.
Here are the details about our Health Centers and how we are reorganizing:
- The John Bell Health Center is operational but open only to see patients who do not have respiratory complaints.
- The Lax Center is operational but open only to see patients who do have respiratory complaints.
- We will divert some Lax patients to John Bell, and some Bell patients to Lax when they call us.
- Pediatrics is operational but open only to see patients who have called ahead of time.
- YHEP and Broad Street Ministry will remain closed, and staff, as well as patients, will be diverted to John Bell Health Center.
- Dental, Diana Baldwin and TREE will remain closed to in-person patient visits but will manage patients by phone.
At this time the following is the status of some of our other services:
- Diana Baldwin and TREE: Operational but with telephone contact only
- Critical Path Learning Center: Closed
- TEACH: Classes are canceled
- CHTA: Operates online. Webinar today!
- ICJ: Open Mon-Thurs, closed on Fridays, with a modified staffing plan
- CTRN: AACO has directed us to stop testing
All public programs sponsored by FIGHT: canceled until it is safe to reschedule them.
Finally, to be very clear. This is a rapidly changing situation. Events beyond our control could overtake us – for example if we cannot get enough protective equipment to protect staff and patients or some new government regulation that requires us to close. But what will not change is our commitment to our patients, and our intent to remain open if we possibly can. Even if external events do force us to close, we will be available by phone and on the Internet.
Please take care of yourselves. Pay attention to public recommendations and requirements. Review what is elsewhere on this website
Stay home if you can. But remember we will be here, in person unless we absolutely cannot be – and we are now – and always available by phone.
See the Latest Information from FIGHT