The COVID-19 pandemic has led many industries and businesses to scale back their operations. Unfortunately, some have not been able to stand the test of time and we miss them. Things are different in health services, however. A pandemic is one of their busiest times. Most Philadelphians have seen the testing clinics and vaccination clinics that the Department of Health has held over the past two years. But that’s just a little taste of some of the things we’ve done.
Outpatient health services, city health centers
The Department of Health’s nine health centers have never closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Health centers quickly incorporated telehealth visits, so patients always had access to their healthcare team. Comprehensive day-to-day management of patient flows involved changing the operation of health centers from a “walk-in” model to an “urgent care” model to improve social distancing in health centers. Plexiglas security barriers have been installed in each of the Centers.
Health centers have also played a key role in the city’s response to the pandemic. Health center staff not only performed more than 22,500 COVID tests, they administered 76,380 doses of COVID vaccine to 36,419 patients. Four new annexes have been opened to facilitate the new COVID responsibilities. Health center staff helped staff the department’s new COVID call center and drive-thru testing clinic at Citizen’s Bank Park.
AIDS Control Activities Coordination Office
The AACO worked to implement the city’s first-ever Ending the HIV Epidemic community plan.
During the pandemic, the AACO awarded contracts to six sites for engagement and re-engagement activities for the treatment of people living with HIV; assigned four sites to provide new services under a “low-threshold model for sexual health services,” increasing access to priority populations and underserved parts of Philadelphia. They increased funding to six organizations to provide targeted, status-neutral community testing in priority populations and created the first-ever center of excellence in non-occupational post-exposure prophylaxis (nPEP).
Chronic Disease and Injury Prevention
Many staff members helped with the COVID response, providing phone lines, helping at food distribution sites, helping with community outreach events and creating the project with Mural Arts which paid local artists to design artwork with COVID safety messages that have popped up all over our city.
Environmental Health Services
The Environmental Health Services Division immediately expanded its inspection and enforcement duties to include all COVID-related complaints except construction sites, in addition to its regular inspection duties. These new inspections required training on issues of masking, social distancing, ventilation and vaccine proof. Inspectors had to inspect businesses, like gymnasiums, that they had never had before. To help companies comply with rapidly changing Health Department guidelines, Environmental Health has begun posting training videos to the Health Department’s YouTube channel.
Office of Facilities Management
The Office of Facilities Management has never stopped working throughout the pandemic. They have been instrumental in installing and upgrading Department of Health facilities to ensure staff can continue to work safely. This includes the construction of four new health center annexes to support vaccination and testing clinics, the installation of plexiglass dividers in the health centers and the provision of additional disinfection services in all Department of Health facilities. health.
While most people came into contact with reference or academic labs during the pandemic because they were tested for COVID. The Department of Health’s Laboratory Services Division was able to build capacity to perform the same type of testing for patients at our health centers, investigations at the medical examiner’s office, the Philadelphia Department of Prisons, and at our events. and COVID testing clinics. In many cases, they have done this job faster than the famous reference labs. The lab has also provided training, kits, and supervision to the Philadelphia School District, prisons, and community partners like Puentas de Salud.
Maternal, child and family health
The Maternity, Childhood and Family Division helped launch several new programs to help families and new moms be healthy and safe. MCFH launched Pacify, a free 24/7 on-demand telelactation app that has over 3,000 users. They have also launched a Doula Support System that provides educational and informational support throughout pregnancy, childbirth and up to one year postpartum for families affected by a substance use disorder. substances. Doulas in this program attended 32 births, virtually or in person, and conducted more than 270 prenatal visits and 405 postpartum visits. In 2021, MCFH launched Philly Families CAN, the city’s centralized home visitation intake system and received referrals for over 800 families.
Medical Examiner’s Office
The Office of the Medical Examiner has maintained full operations throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, which has been one of the busiest times in the Office’s history, including during the unprecedented spike in deaths due to the Omicron variant. They have conducted post-mortem investigations and examinations of suspected COVID-19-related deaths throughout the pandemic, and recently moved operations to a new state-of-the-art facility.
Substance use prevention and harm reduction
In 2020, Philadelphia had the worst year for overdose deaths in the city’s history. The SUPHR team was busy. In response to the pandemic, they have supported efforts to vaccinate drug addicts in Kensington. In response to the large and growing number of overdoses, SUPHR installed the first free naloxone tower in West Philadelphia, launched a naloxone media campaign, distributed over 54,000 doses of lifesaving naloxone, trained over 1,700 people to overdose prevention and distributed more than 100,000 fentanyl test strips. As part of a team working to keep Kensington clean, they picked up over 132,000 and over 7,300 bags of rubbish. As part of an ongoing program, they have provided bereavement care services to over 1,250 people who have lost someone to an overdose.
All of this work is in addition to all the work that the Department of Health normally does.