A Thomson doctor has been named to the Primary Care Provider Committee, one of the four committees on Gov. Brian P. Kemp’s Coronavirus Task Force.
Dr. Jacqueline W. Fincher, of Center for Primary Care’s Thomson office, will serve on the committee. She joined CPC in 2015 and has practiced internal medicine since 1988.
Fincher told the Progress Tuesday the Primary Care Provider Committee’s primary mission is communication. The committee will also advise the governor during the pandemic, she said.
Fincher said representatives from physician organizations and key medical officers serve on the Primary Care Provider Committee. State Sen. Ben Watson MD, a Republican who represents Georgia’s coastal District 1, chairs the committee. Watson is a primary care physician specializing in elderly patients, according to ballotpedia.org.
“Sen. Watson and I were in medical school together in the same class and have known each other a long time,” Fincher said. “We were in touch over the weekend.”
The Thomson doctor said most primary care physicians are receiving a lot of calls from patients, questioning if their symptoms are caused by coronavirus or another ailment. Fincher emphasizes this is also flu and allergy season.
She said primary care physicians are triaging these calls, determining if a patients’ upper respiratory symptoms present as coronavirus, as allergies, strep, the flu or another possible diagnosis. And if there are enough risk factors, testing might be required, she said.
“We’re still seeing patients in a separate area for upper respiratory infection,” Fincher said. Physicians are striving to help patients decide what their next step is – do they need to come into the doctor’s office, or if they are running a fever do they need to go to the district area COVID-19 clinic to be tested, she said.
Augusta University Medical Center recently opened a COVID-19 drive-thru testing clinic at Christenberry Fieldhouse on the Augusta University campus on Wrightsboro Road in Augusta.
Regarding personal protective equipment such as masks and gowns that health providers must wear when caring for coronavirus patients, local physicians and University Hospital McDuffie are taking daily inventories of PPE supplies, according to Fincher.
“We just estimated right now we (CPC) have two weeks worth,” Fincher said “And we have to have access to more.”
Fincher said Gov. Kemp has promised additional PPE supplies would be provided to hospitals and public health departments across Georgia. She said the clinic has requested more PPEs and expects more to come in early next week. “We’re okay until then,” the Thomson physician said.
Fincher said clinics are screening patients before they come in the door and keeping their lobbies clear of anyone that is ill. Hospitals are doing the same, and are having patients who may have coronavirus enter from a separate door.
Hospitals and primary care clinics are also tasked with continuing to care for all their patients such as those with chronic conditions like high blood pressure.
“Obviously a lot of patients are stressed right now,” she said.
Fincher said the next two weeks are critical to continuing social distancing practices. “Now is the time for cell phones, Instagram and Twitter,” she said. “You can still communicate. You just don’t have to do it in person.”
She advises residents to help out their elderly relatives and neighbors, those 65 and older and those with chronic conditions. Fincher suggests the elderly and immune-compromised stay home and have others run their errands to the grocery store, banks and the pharmacy.
“That’s what we’re called to do, we’re called to take care of people,” Fincher said.
Fincher received her undergraduate degree at Oral Roberts University and her medical education at the Medical College of Georgia, where she also performed her internal medicine residency.
Fincher also serves as a regent for American College of Physicians (National Board of Directors for Internal Medicine).
The four committees Kemp named appointees to are the Economic Impact Committee, Primary Care Provider Committee, Emergency Preparedness Committee, and Committee for the Homeless and Displaced.
“In February, we formed the Coronavirus Task Force with a focus on preparing for COVID-19 and its effects,” said Gov. Kemp. “Now, as we mitigate the spread of the virus, these committees will address the specific impacts that COVID-19 will have on communities, industry sectors, our healthcare system, and emergency preparedness. I have full confidence in these committees to serve the needs of all Georgians during this challenging time. In the weeks ahead, we will continue to ensure that our state stands ready for any scenario.”
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