With the help of emergency funding from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, PanCare Health, which operates a dental clinic in Carrabelle, opened a testing site in Gulf County on Friday.
PanCare, headquartered in Panama City, received $97,607 through HHS’s Health Resources and Services Administration, one of 47 health centers in Florida to share in $4.52 million from the Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2020, signed into law by President Trump on March 6.
Health center recipients in Florida may use these awards to address screening and testing needs, acquire medical supplies and boost their telehealth capacity in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Nationwide, the Act provides $8.3 billion in emergency funding for federal agencies to respond to the outbreak, including $100 million for HRSA-funded health centers nationwide.
Ashley Kelley, marketing coordinator for PanCare, said the company opened a testing site in Bay County last month, and then moved to open another three sites, spread out over its nine-county coverage area.
She said the company has a central number, 850-215-4181, where people can call to be screened if they meet the criteria.
The test site in Gulf County, at 528 Cecil G. Costin Sr. Blvd., is open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
To qualify for screenings, people must complete four steps or they will be turned away.
They must exhibit symptoms, that include fever, cough and shortness of breath, call the response line, and conduct a phone screening. Upon qualifying for testing, they will be assigned a unique ID number and given an appointment date and time. They must then present the provided ID number at their appointment, together with photo ID, when they arrive at the testing location.
Kelley said the test site will first screen for two types of the more common flu, and for strep throat.
"We do those results immediately," she said. "If they come back negative, we can do a test for COVID-19. We want to rule it out. It takes about 20 to 25 minutes for the whole process," she said.
Kelley said PanCare’s dental clinic in Carrabelle, at the former municipal building, remains open, but only for emergencies.
North Florida Medical Centers Inc., which oversees the Eastpoint Medical Center, received $77,459 in the emergency funding.
"We are focusing those funds on the purchase of additional personal protection equipment (PPE) for all 10 locations that we serve," said Paulina Pendarvis, NFMC’s public awareness director. "We are having to go to additional vendors for these resources."
Pendarvis said NFMC’s healthcare workers are asking patients to not bring children to the adult’s medical appointments. "Child care is a challenge but that exposure to sick patients can be dangerous for all parties," she said.
She also advised that patients call the medical center before coming in, if they have a fever, cough or a shortness of breath. Eastpoint Medical Center can be reached at 670-8585.
The awards give health centers the flexibility to meet the evolving COVID-19 needs in their respective communities, including but not limited to, expanding COVID-19 screening and testing capacity, purchasing supplies such a personal protective equipment (PPE) and providing safety education.