LEE COUNTY, Fla. — Many doctors in Southwest Florida have switched to Telehealth or video appointments, which the local NAACP chapter says limits access to the only affordable clinic in the area.
Lee County NAACP Vice President Shirley Chapman said The Family Health Center closing its doors in the Dunbar community limits access to people in the area.
“Some people might see it as a negative effect, especially if they don’t have their own private doctors,” she said.
They’re providing only teleconferencing appointments. But, the connection might get dropped if you’re not logged onto the internet. Chapman says it’s a challenge for some Dunbar people.
“They don’t have wifi. They’re still coming up real short handed,” she said.
Local cardiologist Dr. Sajan Rao with the American Heart Association said doctors are adapting to protect patients and themselves. Telehealth allows them to slow the spread of the virus, and talk to patients, even through a phone call.
“There is something that gets lost when you don’t have a face-to-face communication. But, one of the most important things that we’re seeing is we want to make sure that our patients are still taking their medications properly,” he said.
He said underlying health conditions that are common among African Americans like diabetes, asthma, and heart and lung problems makes them more vulnerable to coronavirus.
“Those are the ones who really should not be going out so much. The risks are too great. Until things really slow down,” he said.
But they may not have much of a choice since the state could be opening up sooner rather than later. Rao suggested working from home as the first resort, but realizes not everyone has that luxury.
Chapman disagrees with re-opening too soon. But, sees the positive side since the Dunbar clinic would re-open, too.
“If that happens, then those persons who have not been able to get any kind of medical attention, at least they would have access to it,” she said.
The NAACP will be asking companies to supply service workers with PPE and reminding people in Southwest Florida to continue to avoid congregating in large crowds, even if Governor Ron DeSantis re-opens the economy soon.