Heroes walk among us. Front-line workers. First responders. Essential. We celebrate their contributions and we honor their efforts during such unparalleled times. These are some of their COVID-19 stories from the front lines.
Wellstar Primary Care opened the first integrated primary care office on the Atlanta BeltLine Eastside Trail on a cold day in late February 2020. Offering both primary and urgent care with services ranging from wellness visits to x-rays or on-site lab testing, Dr. Randolph Taylor and his team of seven medical practitioners and administrators were received with open arms by the community, thrilled to suddenly have close access to medical care without necessarily needing to take time off. In fact, Wellstar’s first patient rolled into the office on their bike from the BeltLine trail.
“Our aim is to be a resource for the community that’s walkable,” shared Dr. Taylor, Board Certified in both Family and Sports Medicine with over fourteen years of experience.
Part of the Wellstar family, the BeltLine-facing office was well-equipped to embrace the rapidly changing landscape of healthcare as the menace of the coronavirus pandemic surged in Atlanta.
“Initially there was a lot of ambiguity about the virus in general,” explained Stuart Downs, Vice President of Operations and Chief Operating Officer at Wellstar Atlanta Medical Center (AMC). “Our greatest concern was ensuring Wellstar team member safety as they provided care on the front lines.”
For Dr. Taylor and his team, front line care meant serving in both an urgent care and follow-up care capacity.
“When everything shut down, people still needed healthcare,” Dr. Taylor continued. “A lot of patients were quarantining or using the telemedicine that Wellstar has in place, but those that did require urgent or primary care could come in.”
To safely accommodate patients, Wellstar Primary Care at DeKalb Avenue ensured social distancing by limiting the number of people in the waiting room and requesting that family members wait in the car in accordance with general Wellstar protocol. Although most patients came in wearing masks, those that didn’t were provided with one. The office also worked closely with AMC, and, using the system-wide network, they could easily transfer patient information to AMC’s emergency room, which provided a seamless transition to ER care when necessary.
“There was a lot of fear around the virus. There is still fear, and citizens delayed healthcare,” observed Downs. “Strokes still happen. Heart attacks still happen. We don’t want healthcare consumers to delay care because it can lead to severe negative and irreversible health effects. Wellstar has taken significant precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19, protect our patients and team members and offer safe care.”
“Our office received many calls from folks concerned they might have COVID-19.” added Dr. Taylor. “We have an incredibly skilled staff at the office, who, especially with the resources we have available, immediately responded with a ‘let’s do it’ attitude. They have gone above and beyond to reassure and educate patients.”
Word about the practice is spreading, and as people begin to feel more comfortable about going out, the office has surpassed its pre-COVID number of patients seen.
“People are telling us that they’ve been meaning to check us out or they’ve heard great things about us. Many of them are finally getting care that they’ve been putting off, such as physicals or lab work.”
Despite moving to one of the larger hotspots for COVID-19 in the Southeast, Dr. Taylor never regretted the decision to move his family back to Atlanta from Texas earlier this year.
“We came from Houston where there was flooding. I’m very happy to be back home in Atlanta. We have family here, and during this crisis it’s good to be close by, knowing they’re okay.”
From his office, the Wellstar physician observed how the trail was used (and misused) through the earlier height of the pandemic, with people generally keeping a safe distance in the morning and late evening.
“I fully understand cabin fever and would just encourage people to be aware of their surroundings, wear a mask, and not go out when they see too many others on the trail.
“Patients are starting to respect the virus, which is a good thing,” he affirmed. “I ask that everyone play their role in combating the virus by simply wearing a mask in public places and practicing hand hygiene along with physical distancing.”