On frontline of the COVID-19 pandemic

“One day we chose to become a healthcare provider. We decided one day to help others and save lives, and I believe this is the time.”

- Dr. Antoin Hana

After more than two decades of serving patients, Dr. Antoin Hana says he never thought he’d see  days like this.

“Honestly and truly, I never expected it. We never thought we would come to a day such as this day,” he said.

A pediatrician, Hana works alongside 18 providers — six physicians  and  12 nurse practitioners, as well as other staff — who make up the Frontier Medical Associates teams in clinics Floyd, Magoffin and Martin counties.

He started providing services in Prestonsburg 2005 and, since opening the Floyd County clinic at its current location on Ky. 321 in Prestonsburg, he has seen thousands of patients walk through the doors for pediatric care, family practice care, lab work and other services offered there.

In the wake of the coronavirus, Hana said Frontier has changed the way patients are brought into the facilities, has taken other measures to protect staff and implemented new programs that allow providers to offer virtual visits for patients.

“Because we value the wellness of our pediatric population, basically, we divided our practice,” he said. “In our building, we’re separated now. We created a special entrance for well child and well adult, like when they’re healthy and not having medical complaints. We implemented screening at the door. We have dedicated nurses. We screen every body at the door in a private setting. We evaluate their risk factors and then we direct their care so they either go to our isolation section of the office or they go to our low risk section. So, that’s what we did in terms of separating patients and screening, when they present to our office.”

Dr. Hana, who refers to his patients as “friends,” has around 5,000 followers on Facebook, and he says most of them are his patients.

The clinic has been savvy with the use of technology in the past, and now, in response to the coronavirus, it is starting to use online programs to provide virtual doctor visits for patients.

“We just try to stay in touch with our patients. That way, they can stay informed,” he said.

The clinic uses programs like Zoom and Doximity to provide telemedicine.

Hana said “dedicated providers” are stationed in all clinics for virtual doctor visits.

“Also, we implemented a telemedicine program so we become very accessible with very reliable methods of video and audio, what they call virtual visits,” he said. “Those visits are not our favorite, honestly, but, for the time being, and to keep the wellness of our patients, they can contact our office first and the provider will evaluate their needs. So they either contact them by video and audio and we can manage their needs if there’s no need for them to come to the office. Now, if they are having any type of complaint that requires a visit, obviously, we will invite them to the clinic and we will separate their care if they need any isolation or not. We’re trying to accommodate our resources, to the best we can, to overcome this epidemic.”

The clinic installed tents at entrances where patients can be screened, and employees are screened, as well, at least twice daily, for high temperatures.

Hana, who is working 11- and 12-hour days at the clinic, talked about his own concerns about catching COVID-19 from a patient and why he is willing to put himself at risk.

“Sincerely, I’m a father and a doctor,” he said. “I just worry, like, when I come to work and then I go back home, am I taking anything home? But, you know, at the end of the day, I believe the doctor will win.”

He also said, “One day we chose to become a healthcare provider. We decided one day to help others and save lives, and I believe this is the time. This is the time where we can prove it or not. That’s my understanding of it. If we take our profession seriously, this is the time to prove how committed we are.”

He said Frontier is sending out a few COVID-19 tests daily to its laboratory, Quest, and the results are available within 24 hours.

“So far, we might do, like two or three tests a day,” he said. “We provide the test in all of our clinics, but they are sent out. Those kind of tests, so far, it’s not instant. We don’t see the results right away, but within 24 hours, we get a result. So, we have the capacity at all of our clinics to perform the COVID-19 screening test.”

He said the tests are given to patients with symptoms of COVID-19 who have a history of travel to areas where the virus is prominent or had contact with someone who has a confirmed case of the virus. He mentioned giving a COVID test for someone who had traveled to Disney World last week.

“So far, there is criteria for screening, but the idea is getting less and less as move forward. Now, it’s limited to patients with close contact with confirmed cases or a history of travel to a hot spot, like China and Italy. We’re probably fortunate that we don’t have many of those to come around,” he said.  

His said the clinic offers COVID-19 to patients who are not established patients at this time.

“Especially in this epidemic time, definitely there is no restriction. Any of our providers will do their best and go out of their way to accommodate the need. We have our clinic in Prestonsburg is open after hours as well. We do have the capacity after hours to manage that as well,” he said.  

There are still restrictions, however, on who qualifies for a COVID-19 test.

“So far, as of now, we still have to fill out the questionnaire and contact the governor’s hotline. We get an authorization and then we can send a test. With the Kentucky Department of Health, that’s where we get the authorization for that patient to be tested,” he said. “I’m telling you honestly, though, it’s getting less and less as we go. We are in constant contact with the health department and any new updates coming from the department of health in Kentucky. The great thing is at this time, people came together to overcome the impact of coronavirus.”

Hana said his clinics also offer on-site blood work and digital xrays for patients — tests that could also help detect COVID-19.

“If we suspect any symptoms, basically we can do an x-ray,” he said. “Honestly, I mean, it’s instant. We review the x-ray with the patient. We have a viewing station, where if there’s any suspected lung issues, we have a radiology tech in all of our clinics. We can just get a quick chest x-ray to make sure there is no pneumonia, make sure there is no fluid, nothing like that, if we suspect coronavirus. The coronavirus will have a very distinctive look on a chest x-ray.”

Hana encourages the public to strictly follow the federal and state guidelines issued for social distancing, personal hygiene and other measures that can be taken to slow down the spread of COVID-19.

“Probably, they are tired of hearing recommendations, but it will pay back, believe me,” he said. “Number one, the social distancing is so important because of the way this virus will get transmitted. Even our governor and the government has already implemented all these limitations to slow that social contact, which is great. Number two, protect yourselves. I mean, wear masks if you’re sick, don’t go around people. I believe it starts from the person. All these measures start from us first and then it moves forward. And I believe the parents and the educators or professionals, they probably need to be the example, the good example of this. Then, we need to have frequent hand washing. Not just hand washing, I mean, thorough, 20-second hand washing.”

He is encouraged by news that the number of cases are decreasing in countries where strict social distancing policies have been established. He said we can learn a lesson from mistakes that other countries made in dealing with the virus.

“All of this, the CDC recommendations, those recommendations I believe came out of experience and we learn from other people’s mistakes in different counties. I mean, we don’t have to live the same experience if we are smart,” he said. “This morning, I was just watching the trend in China and Italy after they reached their peak, and now with their cases kind of trending down, that’s reassuring. But, now, imagine, if we really adhere and practice our prevention. Probably, we will never get to their level if we do that. I mean, it could be catastrophic, honestly and truly, but by sticking to our recommendations and making sure we all understand the impact of these measures, it will save us the catastrophe.”

He encourages the public to help protect children and the elderly from the virus.

“Our biggest concern is with the elderly. They are more susceptible to catch it. They are more susceptible to the complication of the coronavirus. And kids, we worry about our kids because they can transmit it. So, basically, we need to protect our kids and keep them healthy and then we implement strict recommendation of isolation and hand washing and personal hygiene and that sort of thing on our elderly; that way we can save them from the impact. We all have mothers and fathers and grandparents. Honestly, we’re thinking of them more than we’re thinking of ourselves.”

For more information, visit Frontier Medical Associates on Facebook or call, (606) 886-1173 or (606) 886-6622.

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