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New triage coronavirus clinic open in Hancock County

Hancock County recently opened a new triage clinic, specifically for people with potential coronavirus symptoms.

GREENFIELD, Ind. (WTHR) - Hancock County recently opened a new triage clinic, specifically for people with potential coronavirus symptoms.

It's staffed with nurses and doctors all ready to provide care, advice and treatment - whether the diagnosis is something simple, like strep or something more complex, like coronavirus.

But while you can get a coronavirus test at the clinic, those are very limited. Most people leave without a definitive yes or no diagnosis.

It is a unique clinic in a formerly empty storefront near a Kroger in a strip mall on the main drag in Greenfield. There are several reserved parking spaces in the lot, because the first step of screening actually starts in your car, with your phone.

"You actually pull into a parking spot with a number, let us know you're here and then we begin the initial triage by the phone," explained Dr. Julia Compton, president of Hancock Physician Network. "So you stay in your car. We talk you through what kind of symptoms you're experiencing. Then the physician will talk to you on your phone. You only go face-to-face for the exam."

"When they need to be seen, we'll bring them in, take all the PPE precautions that we can," added registered nurse Jason Wells with Hancock Health.

This by-appointment-only triage clinic just opened on Monday. Hancock Health made it happen over the weekend, in response to community need.

You can't just come to the door and get treatment. People with coronavirus symptoms are referred here for screening by clinicians from a hotline: 317-325-COVD (2683), or by their doctor.

The goal is to keep doctor's offices free of potential coronavirus infection and spread. Some people are coming in and diagnosed with strep or the flu.

But others likely have the coronavirus.

"What we're seeing is a majority of people with some mild cases," Wells said.

They've cared for approximately 75 patients over three days. But less than 20 actually received a coronavirus test.

"So the very, very difficult thing is, in Indiana we are extremely limited on tests and that is everywhere, every single hospital that you see, which is why we don't have drive-thru clinics. We can't do that until testing is widely available," Dr. Compton explained. "When we order, we will call, we will ask, 'Is it coming, is it coming?' 'Yes.' And the day it arrives, 'Well it's been pushed out a week or it's been pushed out two weeks.' It's just we don't really trust the number until we see it physically in our hands because it's getting pushed back. So you're going to find that not everybody who walks through our door gets a test."

That means some walk out without a clear diagnosis - and that's frustrating for doctors.

"So extremely frustrating because everybody wants to know 'Do I have it or not?'. I would want to know do I have it or not," Dr. Compton said.

"As much as we want to tell you it's this or that, we're doing the tests as we can," Wells said.

"And the reason is really because we're following the state guidelines and there are three, only three," Dr. Compton added.

Those three categories of people who can get tested right now, she said, are the severely ill - who would have been advised to go the ER, not the triage clinic, health care workers and someone who had contact with people exposed in jail or an extended care facility.

As for the rest of us?

"If we think you have the coronavirus we'll send you home with a lot of education on how to self-quarantine, how to do social distancing, who to stay away from until you're healthy and that will be the goal," Dr. Compton said.

"We're reassuring them and making sure they're feeling alright is what we're doing," Wells said.

At the triage, it's a new kind of care: from your car to a clinic and quite likely back home again. The good news, doctors say, most cases are mild and most people recover.

To contact the Hancock County hotline, call 317-325-COVD (2683). That is a phone triage, staffed by clinicians who will listen to your history and your symptoms and schedule an appointment at the clinic, if necessary.