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A day in the life of a hometown hero

Johnathan Baines fighting on front lines vs. COVID-19
Saturday, April 18, 2020
A day in the life of a hometown hero

Johnathan Baines, primary care physician with Green Clinic, conducts a telemedicine visit.

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Baines examines a patient in the Green Clinic Parking lot.

These unprecedented times may seem rife with uncertainty for those staying at home. Yet for health care workers serving on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic, that sense is only magnified due to the uncharted manner with which they must now practice medicine.

For roughly a decade, Johnathan Baines has been a family medicine physician for Green Clinic. Almost overnight, his practice was turned upside down.

“Most of my population is elderly and vulnerable, so many began canceling appointments even prior to the mandated shutdowns and stay-at-home orders,” Baines said. “Now, a typical day is me seeing most patients through telemedicine with only a few face-to-face, either in my clinic or in the parking lot. I spend more of my day deciding which of these means is most appropriate for the patient.”

Baines said Green Clinic is doing extensive phone triage in order to get the information needed for making the best decision on how he should see the patient.

If patients have a smart phone or webcam, he can video conference with them in a FaceTime-like experience that allows him to check in, go over medications and assess side effects, assess blood sugar or blood pressure logs, and provide any refills needed.

If the patient doesn’t have video capabilities, Baines will do phoneonly visits. Office visits are available when the need isn’t appropriate for telemedicine and it becomes obvious an examination is required.

However, if the patient has symptoms consistent with COVID-19, they must remain in the parking lot for a “carside” visit to decrease the chance of exposure to people in the clinic.

This requires Baines to don full-body personal protective equipment including mask, gloves, gown, shoe covers, etc.

“It feels a lot like drive-thru medicine but I feel it is the best way to protect the rest of the staff and other patients.”

At the end of the day, Baines admits that he does have more uncertainty than he normally did pre-crisis.

He questions whether he handled certain things appropriately, should he not have brought a patient in, or should he have seen a patient in person.

Yet he recognizes that these are unprecedented times without set guidelines for how to handle each circumstance.

Baines said the most surprising thing for him concerning how the pandemic has affected health care is the rapid changes that he and others have to keep up with every day.

“From what symptoms to look for, who should be tested, how to code and process the visits, these are changing every single day, even multiple times daily,” he said. “Doctors are trained to practice evidence-based medicine which means the recommendation we give and the guidelines we follow are tested and verified. But there are no controlled, peer-reviewed, double-blind studies to guide us on this. This is where practicing medicine becomes more of an art.”

In spite of it all, Baines said he seems to have less stress at the end of the day.

He attributes that to a combination of seeing fewer patients and the absence of extra-curricular activities and evening events, something that has provided more family time at home.

Baines is also president of the Ruston Community Theatre.

He said he encourages others to find the positives in the midst of the negatives and worry about the unknowns.

“We don’t know how long it will take before we can return to life as usual and we don’t know what the lasting effects will be.

“But it’s nice to see how people in the communities are coming up with creative ways to support and encourage one another, even in the absence of physical presence. So let’s embrace this time as reflection to discover what is most important in our lives and prioritize those things in the future.”