Urgent care center implements new measures

Robin Cracco, manager of Saint Mary’s Hospital’s urgent care center in Naugatuck, right, shows workers how to put a face shield on with help from office coordinator Marissa Carrey at the center April 8. –ANDREAS YILMA

NAUGATUCK — New measures have been put in place at the urgent care center downtown due to the COVID-19 pandemic, as less people are walking through the doors.

Saint Mary’s Hospital operates the urgent care center at 58 Maple St. Robin Cracco, who manages the center, said the number of patients has dropped by about 50% after the coronavirus hit the state.

“People are petrified to come to these centers,” said Cracco, adding patients only come in if they really need to.

Saint Mary’s doesn’t conduct COVID-19 testing at its urgent care centers, Cracco said. The hospital operates four other urgent care centers, one in Cheshire, one in Wolcott and two in Waterbury.

Cracco said anyone that has coronavirus symptoms is referred to the urgent care center in Cheshire, which has been designated to handle such cases to separate people who are symptomatic from those who aren’t.

The center in the borough is still open to people, though the process of seeing someone has changed.

Patients are encouraged to call the center at 203-723-5636 to make an appointment and registration will be done over the phone. People can still walk into the building’s lobby, but the door to the center is locked and they will have to call once inside the lobby.

Health career workers will screen people over the phone, and everyone has their temperature taken before they enter the center.

“The volume of patients calling on the telephone has increased dramatically,” Cracco said.

Workers at the center are adjusting to a new way of operating, as well.

“The hospital policy is now every one of my staff wears a mask, the whole time that they’re here,” Cracco said. “They put it on when they get here and they take it off when they leave because that’s just like an extra level of protection.”

Workers’ temperatures are checked before and after each work day. Those whose temperatures are above 100.4 degrees, and anyone that has symptoms, are sent home, Cracco said.

The center is cleaned after every shift, she said, and nurses wipe down everything people come in touch with between patients.

“I think the scariest part for people (health care workers) is the fact of making sure you have the supplies that you need to be able protect yourselves,” Cracco said. “It’s a little bit scary for people that have to go home to their families.”

Workers at the center have a few new routines they follow, including taking their shoes and work clothes off and showering as soon as they get home, and washing cloth masks they wear over surgical masks their surgical masks each day. The surgical masks are thrown away each day, Cracco said.

“I’m taking precautions and staying safe,” office coordinator Marissa Carey said. “I’m trying to live life as normally as possible.”

“We have to wear masks that we didn’t have to wear before,” added Elieen Dickson, a registered nurse.

Cracco said the staff at the center is doing everything they can to keep themselves and their patients healthy.

“I want reassure them (patients) that the place is very safe. We have healthy staff here to take care of them,” Cracco said. “We want to do whatever we can do to serve the community … and by segregating the populations, I think now we’re able even to make it safer.”