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Mayo initiative allows community paramedics to assist homeless COVID-19 patients in isolation

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ROCHESTER, Minn. (KTTC) -- A new health initiative in the Med City allows COVID-19 positive patients who are experiencing homelessness to receive daily medical care.

A partnership between Mayo Clinic Ambulance's Community Paramedics, Olmsted County Public Health, The Landing and Catholic Charities allows community paramedics to provide in-person medical support for patients who are homeless.

One of those former patients who recovered last week shared his gratitude for the help he received from medical professions.

"Thank you to everyone who has helped me through this journey. It is very difficult right now. And I just want to say thank you to all the nurses and the first responders," he said.

Three homeless shelters in Rochester are providing temporary housing for COVID-19 positive patients who need to quarantine safely.

Zack Stickler, a community paramedic, was the first person in that role to begin daily visits with homeless patients. He will be one of three in that role.

"We're checking their vitals, if they are short of breath, up and walking around, we'll check their oxygen levels while they're up and walking around. And helping them with the quarantine period, anything they might need." Stickler said.

In some cases, community paramedics will pick up prescriptions that isolated patients may need.

The initiative started in the second week of December and Stickler began working with patients the following week.

"A lot of people that we saw were towards the end of their quarantine period so the light was at the end of the tunnel for them. And some people that are just getting into it, we're helping them throughout that whole time in quarantine," he said.

A Mayo doctor said this type of treatment creates health care trust for unsheltered patients.

"I think by bringing care to the people. It humanizes that healthcare. And we're no longer just this big building that engulfs them when they are brought in by an ambulance. We want to be there trusted health care providers who really care for them no matter what is going on in their lives," said Dr. Rozalina McCoy, a primary care physician.

Many shelters have been hit hard by the virus, Olmsted County saw the same amount of positive cases among unsheltered individuals for two weeks starting at the beginning of December.

"We had another testing event which elicited the same infections rate another 25 to 30 percent. So then we had another 11 to 12 people isolated," said Mary O'Neil, Olmsted County Housing Stability.

All the more reason to have extra help on those patient's road to recovery.

"One of the things that this population hasn't had before is that kind of medical care. So, this is really giving a new focus on how can we help them with those needs?" said Dan Fifield, The Landing co-founder.

KaMaria Braye

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