Grady offers patients pharmacy service in time of crisis
United Way of Greater Atlanta, Community Foundation helps secure grant to serve uninsured and underinsured populations
By Bradley Roberts
The city of Atlanta doesn’t exist in a vacuum. The same problems in the largest cities around the world exist in our own backyard. Every single one of us is feeling the stress of a pandemic outbreak that has swept across the United States in recent months.
We are all impacted during this crisis—enduring a forced quarantine and economic shutdown— but none more than the hospitals.
“We are not unique in Atlanta,” says Grady Health System Chief Medical Officer Dr. Robert Jansen. “We have seen a number of patients who have been infected, or who we think are infected.”
Grady has seen an influx of patients flowing into the hospital who are infected with the novel coronavirus. The pandemic outbreak of the coronavirus has forced much of the United States into a semi-quarantined state for just over a month.
About two weeks into March, major cities across the country began shutting down restaurants, bars, gyms and schools in an attempt to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus. As of April 14, the infectious disease, COVID-19, which is a respiratory illness with symptoms such as cough, fever and in severe cases, difficulty breathing, has infected more than 579,000 people nationwide and killed more than 22,000.
Businesses shut down in Atlanta and its surrounding communities, and Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms on March 24 issued a “stay-at-home” order. On Wednesday, April 8, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp extended a statewide shelter-in-place order to roll on through the month of April.
Social distancing guidelines were encouraged at the federal, state and local levels.
Jansen says Grady serves a unique set of patients. Many of them are “uninsured or underinsured,” and many of them may be homeless, living in a shelter or facing a number of other health-related problems.
“You can’t reintroduce somebody who is homeless into a homeless shelter,” Jansen says. “So, there’s just a new layer of complexity regarding discharge.”
Over the past few weeks, Jansen says the staff at Grady has worked tirelessly to prepare for the imminent “surge” in new COVID-19 cases in Atlanta.
“Atlanta has been fortunate in that we haven’t experienced that surge yet—it would great if we never experienced that,” Jansen says. “We’ve been acquiring all the [personal protective equipment] that we can. We are not running out of anything right now, but under a surge situation, we are concerned about the supplies. We’ll continue to acquire all that we can.”
Jansen thanked the community and partner nonprofits who have helped support Grady in acquiring masks and other supplies. He said it was “overwhelming” to see the community response.
“That really has taken a lot of the burden off of us,” Jansen says. “At the beginning, we were afraid we wouldn’t have masks and other things like that.”
The hospital has been able to focus its efforts on providing COVID-19 testing for themselves as well as Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and Southern Regional Medical Center. The hospital took efforts to ensure safety of its patients and employees on site, asking that everyone who enters wear a protective mask and that patients hold off on elective surgeries during this time—all of the time while continuing to offer high levels of care.
In addition to these measures, Grady also invested in a text and phone campaign to enroll patients in its mail order pharmacy program.
The program will help more than 10,000 patients receive medicines without having to pick up those prescriptions at the pharmacy and potentially risk infection.
This was made possible by a recent grant from United Way of Greater Atlanta and Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta.
On March 27, United Way and Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta announced its second round of grants allocated from its Greater Atlanta COVID-19 Response and Recovery Fund. Grady Health Foundation received $315,000 to aid in the pharmacy program.
“We don’t want people out of their houses unless they need to be out,” Jansen says. “This helps a vulnerable population that we serve. Without having to take public transportation to come to the hospital, it keeps people off the campus. Every time someone comes in, they may be at risk and they don’t know it. The more you can keep people in their homes, the better off the community is and the better off we are. That’s a huge blessing for us.”
Joselyn Baker, president of Grady Health Foundation, said Grady has had a “strong and productive partnership” with United Way and Community Foundation.
“We are here to serve the community as a whole, and none of us can be successful without working with the other,” Baker says. “As we look at this crisis, what we’re seeing is the true value of the partnerships on an even bigger scale. One of the reasons Grady and other institutions are able to be prepared for this is because of the support we have received.
“We couldn’t be more grateful for Community Foundation and their support and United Way, whom we partner with on so many other facets.”
The staff at Grady is committed to the hospital’s mission, Jansen says.
“The spirit of, ‘We can do it,’ and ‘We are Grady’ is phenomenal,” Jansen says. “it’s brought the best out of us, and I can’t say I’m surprised, but I’m very pleased. Our staff is second to none—it’s not just the doctors and nurses, but… this effort permeates every niche of the organization. It impacts everybody, and everybody has put forth a phenomenal effort.”
Baker says the grant helps Grady tacitly, but it also helps others see the support of the nonprofit community.
It helps them all “to know that Atlanta has their back,” she says.
If you would like to show Greater Atlanta and the state of Georgia that they have your support, donate to the Greater Atlanta COVID-19 Response and Recovery Fund.