It’s hard to miss new signs around Baptist Health Paducah’s campus and Mercy Health-Lourdes Medical Pavilion, as providers work to see patients with respiratory symptoms and limit exposure to COVID-19.

“If you have the following symptoms: fever, cough, sore throat or shortness of breath, DO NOT go to Urgent Care,” a Baptist Health sign reads. “Instead, proceed to the Respiratory Evaluation Clinic behind Medical Park 3 on South 27th Street.”

Baptist Health’s Respiratory Evaluation Clinic is near a small testing site structure, while Mercy Health-Lourdes Hospital has two designated clinics, in Paducah and Marshall County, to see people experiencing flu-like symptoms, such as fever, cough, shortness of breath, sore throat or body aches. Its two clinics are designed to evaluate and treat patients with symptoms, which include COVID-19 tests if needed.

“We’ve heard all of the people on the news and TV talking about social distancing and, you know, ‘Don’t go to the doctor, even, if you don’t have to,’ ” said Dr. David Saxon of Baptist Health Paducah Urgent Care. “The main push has been, first, to try to contact your provider or a provider. There are lots of outlets that do e-visits or video visits online and get advice from them — ‘do you need to be seen, do you not need to be seen?’ ”

However, Saxon said if someone has extreme shortness of breath or any emergency symptoms, they should go to an Emergency Room and not delay contacting their doctor.

“We’re seeing all kinds of people with respiratory symptoms, but they don’t all have COVID-19, and you could come here without it and leave with it,” Saxon said.

“(At) Baptist, we are trying to keep everything clean and wiped down, wearing our protection so we don’t get it, so we don’t spread it to people, so the environment should be safe if you do need to come, but there’s always accidents that happen in the parking lot, you could run into someone. Minimize your contact with people, even going to the doctor if you don’t need to go.”

A canopy is set up near its Medical Park 1 entrance as staff work to check with patients. If someone has respiratory symptoms, they may be redirected to the evaluation clinic if they didn’t go there first. There is a designated parking area for the evaluation clinic behind Stone-Lang Co.

Saxon explained it “kind of” split the Urgent Care clinic.

“We’ve got our traditional Urgent Care, where at first, up until about two weeks ago, we were seeing everything — respiratory illness, back pains, whatever you might have need for,” he said. “And in anticipation of this surge ... where more and more people may get sick and we may have more volume, we’ve moved a section of our clinic to Building 3 here on the first floor and trying to have all our respiratory patients go through that clinic.

“And keep our Urgent Care for those patients that have any non-respiratory (issues) — urinary infections, knee strain, whatever it may be.”

Saxon said it’s open 7 a.m.-7 p.m. Monday through Friday and 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Meanwhile, the testing site structure is not a walk-in clinic and needs referral.

For Mercy Health-Lourdes Hospital, its Paducah flu clinic is open 8 a.m.-8 p.m. seven days a week and its Marshall County flu clinic in Benton is open 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday through Friday. They are provider-run clinics, said Mercy Health registered nurse Tennille Rushing, who is director of quality and clinical integration.

The clinic, 225 Medical Center Drive, is located near Mercy Health-Paducah Urgent Care. Patients can pull up into the parking lot and be assessed without even getting out of their car, explained Rushing. They could be identified to be seen at the flu clinic, Urgent Care, Emergency Room or even to go home, if they’re experiencing no symptoms.

“The clinics are walk-in only, so we don’t really do any scheduled visits per se, but we do have availability to take a call from someone if they want to send us a patient — that they feel strongly that needs to be assessed,” Rushing said.

“We do have in both of our locations what we call kind of a drive-up area as well as a full clinic for appropriate exams and things like (that) within the space. These spaces are both carved out specifically for respiratory symptom patients, so they’re not co-mingled with the general population.”

Mercy Health also offers a COVID-19 hotline at 888-700-9011 for patients who have questions or concerns, in addition to a COVID-19 virtual assistant chatbot at mercy.com.

Rushing also noted it has to ensure the appropriate patients are tested, in order to be “good stewards” of resources, such as personal protective equipment and test kits that have limited availability all over.

“There’s not a way or a method, maybe, for us to be able to test everyone who wants to be tested,” she said. “No one can, so we are definitely using our best judgment and advocating for the greater good of the community on how those tests are being disseminated or utilized.”

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