Virus decreases appointments for student medical services

Although services from a face-to-face experience has diminished everywhere due to the outbreak of COVID-19, the student medical services at West Texas A&M will continue to serve the campus, but with fewer workers.

Dr James Gibbs, one of the University’s long time physicians. *courtesy photo provided by student medical services

Since the beginning of the shelter-in-place laws, the structure of the staff has cut down on student worker positions and has limited how many people can be in the building. For example, they will have one healthcare provider rotate throughout to provide a physical checkup if necessary. In addition, medical evaluations will now be conducted via ZOOM calls.

Lori O’Toole, the medical office manager, is one of the few “crew-only” essential employees to remain working in the facility. She schedules the appointments and coordinates the payments for the patients as well. O’Toole said that appointments have dramatically dropped over the course of this period. This is due to many students leaving to go back home and not being in the area anymore. She’s concerned because she wants to take care of patients, but at the same time she does not want to increase the chances of people being exposed to the virus. 

LuAnne Rickwartz giving an injection *courtesy photo provided by student medical services

“What we’re trying to do is be proactive and responsible– we have made the decision to limit people from visiting the clinic as much as possible,” said Dr. James Gibbs, a WTAMU physician. According to CDC guidelines the best treatment for COVID-19 is isolation. Gibbs said it’s dangerous to have many people because of recent studies done in China. 16% of people who have it will progress to serious symptoms, while 84% will not have serious conditions.

Gibbs also said that it is not easy to test people and as of right now they do not have the proper resources or lab to test people. However they can set up a means to have a test made for them and if physical contact is necessary, a physician will provide a face-to-face appointment.

What has assisted the doctors in the means of diagnosing patients while also following the guidelines are zoom calls. “It’s a reality, and the best way to combat the virus is social distancing,” said LuAnne Rickwartz, director of student medical services. 

Rickwartz is optimistic about how medical services will handle the situation of the pandemic. She says even though it is difficult to make a diagnosis over a zoom call, it still can be done when it comes to looking at physical and vital signs. “It is in the best interests of the students and faculty–I have never experienced this in my life, and I feel like we have amazing leadership–we got a good plan in place,” Rickwartz said. 

The Center for Disease Control lists possible symptoms for COVID-19 as chest pain, severe dizziness, fatigue, trouble speaking and blue lips. Drinking lots of fluids and resting as much as possible are the best ways to combat the virus. If you have concerns about your health, you can contact the student medical services for an appointment at 806-651-3287. To find more information about the virus you can see the CDC’s guide here.