Honor business on front lines of pandemic
McCOOK, Neb. - The McCook Chamber of Commerce board of directors chose McCook Clinic as Honor Business for the first quarter of 2021. According to Chamber President Dawson Brunswick, “They have been such an asset to our community and we just wanted to recognize the excellence in what they have been doing and the partners they are. We’re just so excited that they were able to step up in these crazy times.”
The clinic’s business manager, Brian Rokusek spoke to the Gazette about challenges, and a few opportunities, that a worldwide pandemic created for the clinic.
He said that over the past year, one focus of the clinic has been infection control, an issue that they were targeting even before COVID. “In our current expansion, when we were going to expand our walk-in clinic, we wanted to separate our acutely ill patients from our chronically ill. This [COVID] made us even take a closer look at that,” Rokusek said.
As a result, the clinic purchased an affectionately-named “Covid cabin”, a small mobile office that was placed just outside the clinic’s south staff entrance. The cabin was initially used to treat patients with COVID symptoms so that exposure would be limited, although its usage has diminished since the beginning of the pandemic.
Rokusek said that the past year has challenged the efficiency of the clinic because of the need to constantly be switching out personal protective equipment. He said the staff also had to get used to operating in a completely masked environment.
But everyone at the clinic “stepped up” during a time that their jobs were really difficult to do. He said the public was also coping with the new culture. “One thing about living out here is that people really respond. When we’re in a crisis or if we need people to do things, if you ask them, they’re normally going to do it.”
Keeping up with constantly changing treatment options and care advisories has been both taxing and valuable at the same time. Taxing due to the constant adjustment needed to keep up with recommendations. “We’d put systems in place and make decisions, and then we’d wake up the next day and find out the CDC or some other agency had come up with something different.”
But it was also valuable in that many entities worked together to provide the best possible outcomes for patients. “We’ve all worked together - the hospital, the public health departments, the city, and community. It was a lot more meetings and a lot more work, but we don’t take those resources for granted anymore.”
McCook Clinic currently has 64 employees, a number that has almost doubled in the 20 years that Rokusek has been the business manager for the organization. Of that, six positions are primary care providers, and seven are mid-level care providers (nurse practitioners and physician assistants).
As with all businesses, the clinic faced staffing challenges as employees were exposed or tested positive and had to quarantine. The clinic hired additional staff and some retired staff came back to help out during the crisis. But now, all staff who wanted the vaccine has received it; and many have already had COVID so they have some degree of immunity according to Rokusek.
Recruitment of providers and other health care professionals is a constant endeavor. The clinic has come up with some innovative ways to attract providers, or future-providers, through contact with medical students in their residency. Rokusek said they are always looking for providers who want a small-town environment to practice and live in.
COVID may have affected the clinic more than any other business in the community, but in the end, the goal of caring for patients was the top priority. “It’s what we do. It really amped it up a little. It made it a little more difficult. It felt overwhelming at times, but we were always able to accomplish and take care of all the people that we needed to. And that was what was the most important thing.”