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Great Falls Clinic implements new procedures due to coronavirus

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Posted at 10:33 PM, Mar 17, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-18 00:45:32-04

GREAT FALLS — There are currently no confirmed cases of coronavirus (COVID-19) in Great Falls or Cascade County, but there are nine confirmed cases in Montana as of Tuesday, March 17, and an increasing number of organizations and businesses are taking action to prevent or slow its spread.

As of Tuesday, March 17, there are nine confirmed COVID-19 cases in Montana:

  • Missoula County: man in his 20s
  • Yellowstone County: woman in her 20s
  • Gallatin County (2): man in his 40s, and man in his 20s; both recovering at home; both acquired through international travel
  • Yellowstone County: woman in her 50s; recovering at home; acquired through international travel
  • Butte-Silver Bow County: man in his 50s; recovering at home; acquired domestically in affected areas out of state
  • Broadwater County: man in his 50s; recovering at home; acquired domestically in affected areas out of state
  • Missoula County (2): a man in his 50s, and a woman in her 30s

The Great Falls Clinic has implemented new procedures for patients to follow in response to growing concerns about the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19). They provided the following information in a news release on Tuesday evening:

A 24/7 COVID-19 Helpline has been implemented. Please call ahead prior to visiting the Great Falls Clinic if you have fever, cough, and shortness of breath or have concerns you might have COVID-19. For questions related to COVID-19, please contact our helpline number at 406-454-7275. If phone lines are busy, patients are encouraged to leave a brief message with a call back number. We would like to ensure all departments within the Clinic are safe for normal visits and surgeries by maintaining a specific location for sick visits.

Effective Wednesday, March 18, 2020, all patients, visitors, vendors, and staff will be screened every day they enter the facility. All points of entry will be monitored and screened patients will be identified with a unique sticker each day to verify they have completed COVID-19 screening requirements at the door.

  • 1 station at Main Campus, 1400 29th Street South
  • 1 station at Hospital, 3010 15th Ave South
  • 3 stations at Specialty Center, 3000 15th Ave South
  • 1 station at Surgery Center, 1509 29th Street South
  • 1 station at Montana Plastic Surgery Center, 1600 9th St South

In order to contain the spread of any unwanted germs, the Northwest Clinic at 1600 Division Road, Great Falls has been identified as the primary location to send patients that fail our screening test. If a patient presents with any COVID-type illness, they will not be seen in any location except for the Northwest Clinic. Northwest Clinic will only be accessible to evaluate patients with respiratory illness, (fever and/or cough, shortness of breath, sore throat) only. There will be no other entry allowed into this facility until further notice. Patients who require, or will likely need, hospital care related to COVID-19 complaints will be directed to our Emergency Department, 3010 15th Ave South.

Great Falls Clinic said in the news release: "We understand testing costs may prohibit some patients from being tested, therefore, we are reviewing all costs for testing patients when screening for COVID-19 and adjustments will be made and communicated with providers. We are working to lower these costs to accommodate during the pandemic. Some of those tests include influenza, respiratory viral panel, and COVID-19 testing. Most commercial insurances have communicated that testing for COVID-19 specifically will not have an out of pocket impact on patients. Patients should be encouraged to reach out to their insurance company for specific details regarding these costs."

The Great Falls Clinic does NOT have COVID-19 testing kits and those tests are directed to other laboratories once other tests are negative and COVID-19 is suspected.

Northwest Clinic’s hours will also be extended through the weekend to manage this volume – Updated hours are as follows:

  • Northwest: Monday- Friday, 7:30 am – 6:00 pm
  • Northwest: Saturday- Sunday, 9:00 am – 4:00 pm
  • Immediate Care Center- Monday- Friday, 7:00 am – 7:00 pm
  • Immediate Care Center – Saturday- Sunday, 10:00 am – 2:00 pm

Screening questions include the following: Anyone exhibiting symptoms including fever, cough, shortness of breath; who have traveled to the following areas in the last 14 days including: China, Iran, South Korea, Italy, Japan, Hong Kong and Europe and; have been in contact with someone who is suspected or confirmed to have COVID-19 virus and not wearing appropriate protective equipment will.
Great Falls Clinic says they are working on a work-from-home policy to increase social distancing options for our staff. Visitors will be severely restricted in all settings and a policy will be presented with guidelines on the management of visitors. Students and volunteers have been cancelled to increase social distancing. We have removed all reading material and coffee percolators from our waiting areas to reduce possible contaminants. We will work with all patients requesting to reschedule, please call us at 406-454-2171.

Benefis Health System has also established a helpline for questions and concerns related to COVID-19. The helpline can be reached at 406-455-2500 from 7am-7pm, seven days a week.

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