We have taken and continue to implement extraordinary measures to protect you, and our staff, from Covid-19. These measures include facilities upgrades especially HVAC, constant cleaning and PPE use, restriction of exam room use, and antigen testing of everyone who comes into the office suite.
Facilities HVAC upgrades
We have installed further air filtration and UV units in the air handlers in the office itself. Each pair of rooms shares one. These further supplement the upgraded HEPA filters the landlord installed on the roof units that provide makeup air. This enhances the cleanliness of the air we breathe in the exam rooms and further lessens the likelihood than any viral infection would spread within our office suite.
Enhanced cleaning of exam rooms
After each patient leaves our office, the exam surfaces are wiped clean and sanitized with viricide. The exam room is then closed to use for 15-30 minutes to allow multiple air exchanges, which are passed through the air handlers equipped with UV sanitizing devices. This process meets and generally exceeds all CDC guidelines.
Staff use of PPE
Our staff protect themselves, and you, by wearing rigorous personal protective equipment that includes N95 respirator masks and plastic face shields. We all now wear sanitized hospital scrubs, which are changed at least daily. We also wear single-use gowns and gloves for any procedures, including taking samples for SARS-CoV-2 testing. And of course we wash our hands or use sanitizer between every patient and much more often, in practice.
We believe we have to treat everyone as a possible asymptomatic carrier of Covid-19 for all our protection. Hence the hospital level of PPE we employ. Our degree of PPE exceeds CDC clinical guidelines. We think this is essential to have a safe environment, but in turn this vigilance is a substantial added expense to the practice in time and hard-to-get supplies.
On-site Covid-19 testing for patients & staff
Finally, we test every patient coming to our office with the Quidel antigen test for SARS-CoV-2. And we test ourselves weekly as well. We do this because of the well-documented high incidence of asymptomatic disease with Covid-19. We purchased the SARS-CoV-2 test kits early in the pandemic and have followed this procedure since the start of summer.
The recent explosion of daily new cases in Massachusetts to the 2,500-3,000 level (up by a factor of 8 compared to October and almost by 10 compared to September) underscores the importance of this screening testing. Again, for your protection and ours. The antigen testing we can do in the office is highly accurate, though it is not perfect. It is not quite so sensitive as a PCR test (hence there may be more false negatives), but the results only take 15 minutes in our office compared to several days for the PCR.
No test, including PCR, is perfect (meaning no false negatives or positives) and none can assure that a negative test is absolute proof of lack of infection. But a point-of-care negative antigen test adds to the evidence, starting with verbal screening for exposure and symptoms, that a given person is free of Covid-19 contagious disease at that time. It reduces the risk, but does not eliminate it. Hence, given our repeated up-close exposures to our patients, we continue to wear serious protective PPE, as described above, in all our in-person clinical contacts, and every patient wears at least a reasonable face mask.
Sword of Asclepius (l. Aesculapius)
In Greek mythology, Asclepius was the god of medicine. He wielded his sword (with 2 entwined serpents) to ward off illness. The Orchard Health Care logo is an adaptation of that design, with tree leaves instead of serpent heads. It was designed in 2005. We will continue to use all our resources including our metaphorical medical sword to try to protect all of our members during this pandemic.