Duffy Health Center Continues Operating Amid COVID-19 Outbreak

Portable Showers at Duffy Health Center

HYANNIS – The Duffy Health Center is continuing to take care of those in need in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

As a way to provide service to all of their patients in the middle of a public health crisis, Duffy made changes to allow for doctor appointments to be done over the phone.

“After the emergency was declared we really had to focus on our internal operations and figure out how we were going to see our patients in the middle of an infectious disease outbreak,” said CEO Heidi Nelson.

“We switched over the course of seven to ten days to an almost completely telephonic system. We do have some patients coming into the building but by in large everything that we are doing is telephonic.”

Roughly half of Duffy’s staff is working on site while the other half has been working from home.

The health center remains open to established patients for urgent care visits only.

Duffy has been working with Cape Cod Healthcare to develop a “hotel stay program” for people who are homeless and people who need to socially isolate or quarantine.

“Patients who were what we call ‘persons under investigation’ or PUI’s or people who were actually COVID-19 positive, we developed a hotel stay program for them where the hospital pays the expenses and Duffy runs the program,” said Nelson.  

“Basically we house them, we provide food, and then we provide medical care and case management over the phone to those folks as well.”

Portable showers are still being offered by Duffy in their Hyannis parking lot for homeless individuals.  

The pop-up station participants are given fresh hygiene supplies as well as a new set of clothes.

“We started thinking about the needs of the people in the community who are unsheltered, by the time we had put this plan into action people had been basically wearing the same clothes for four or five weeks,” Nelson said.     

“We worked with MEMA and they provided a brand new, never used before, mobile shower unit that sits in our parking lot that has two shower units with a sink and a toilet and our folks can go in and take a shower.”

Nelson added that 10 to 20 people come to use the showers each session.

Showers are offered Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings.

“It’s been a very successful engagement program,” said Nelson.

Duffy has also started a bagged breakfast program in conjunction with The Federated Church of Hyannis.   

“Between 8 a.m. and 9 a.m. on weekday mornings, unsheltered folks can walk by the window in the back of the church and receive a bagged breakfast,” said Nelson.

Duffy was able to receive a small business loan of $2,500 from Cape Cod 5.

The health center has received private support as well.

“What has been really amazing has been the level of private support that we’ve received,” Nelson said.  

“We’ve received support from Eastern Bank, from the Cape Cod Foundation, from the United Way, from a number of private individuals who wrote a check and said here use it where you need to use it.”    

The private funding is used by Duffy to fund community outreach programs such as the bagged breakfast program.

Officials from Duffy are currently working on a reopening plan as the state slowly begins to lift restrictions.

A concern for the health center is that current space configurations within the building may not allow for operations to return to what they were pre-pandemic.

Duffy is considering options that involve tele-health and reduced flow of staff and patients.

“We need to have a plan that is safe for our patients and safe for our staff, that’s our number one goal,” said Nelson

Nelson expects Duffy to have a reopening plan ready in the coming weeks.

For more information on Duffy Health Center, click here.  

About Luke Leitner

Luke Leitner grew up in Watertown Massachusetts and now lives in West Yarmouth on the Cape. He has been a part of the news team in the CapeCod.com News Center since the spring of 2019. He studied business communications at Western New England University.

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