Yet, "it's not about earning a paycheck" for these medical responders
A hero is defined as "a person who is admired or idealized for courage, outstanding achievements or noble qualities."
Never has that word resonated more than right now, with millions of frontline responders risking their lives every day amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
For the brave men and women who serve the underserved at Ryan Health in New York, their founding principle is clear – "Healthcare is a right, not a privilege."
What's also clear is the more than 400 employees still coming to work every day in the face of this unprecedented virus are heroes, plain and simple.
Healthcare providers afraid as well
Being a hero doesn't mean that saving lives doesn't come with the same amount of fear, if not more, than non-medical personnel around the country in the face of this deadly virus.
Before COVID-19 hit, the health center and TD Bank Small Business customer offered "high-quality primary care and specialty services to the community’s children, adults, and seniors … including HIV care, diabetes management, and women’s health." After the pandemic, it still does all that and much more
Scott Morgan, Chief Financial Officer at the health center, said the staff have been "incredible" amid the pandemic, but they are also scared for their own safety, as well as the safety of their families.
"It has been daunting for our staff. They have no idea if the next patient who walks through the door may have active COVID-19, be asymptomatic yet still contagious, or been exposed to someone with the virus," he explained. "Still, on our worst day, we had about 10% of staff callout. It shows that they are still committed to our patients now more than ever. For them, it's not about earning a paycheck."
While he's awed by how his employees are "stepping up and doing what society needs" in the face of COVID-19, changes needed to be made to how they treat patients both mentally and physically.
They waived co-pays, even for the uninsured, and worked fast to put together a sustainable telehealth model.
"We put together a telehealth program in five or six weeks that normally would have taken a couple years to develop," he said.
Because of that model, they are seeing about 60% of their normal capacity. Last year, they saw 50,000 patients in all.
The organization also reopened one of their sites as a COVID-19 testing center, which Scott simply said was, "just the right thing to do."
Saving jobs for essential medical personnel
Like businesses all over the country, several nonprofit community health centers have had to furlough staff amid mandated shutdowns. As shocking and scary as this fact is, Scott feels fortunate they haven't had to do that at Ryan Health.
One of the main reasons is TD Bank Senior Relationship Manager Anthony Viskovich, who helped Ryan Health obtain a Paycheck Protection Program loan for the organization's multiple locations in New York City. These key funds are part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act.
"It was an amazing experience," Scott said about working with TD on getting this emergency funding. "We had the loan approved and funded within a week."
Anthony said the second Scott reached out to him, he knew getting Ryan Health the funding it needed was a priority, especially now.
"Health centers like Ryan Health are vital as they tailor their services to fit the special needs and priorities of their communities," Anthony said. "Their intimate knowledge of the community is exactly what is necessary to ease the fears and deliver appropriate healthcare during these uncertain times."
With the Ryan Health team close to full strength, they've put resources into proactive outreach, calling and contacting patients they know have chronic problems like asthma and could be at greater risk if they contract the virus.
Because of the continued level of care that many are receiving from Ryan Health, Scott says patients have been showing their gratitude during this time, literally telling them they want to "shout from the rooftops" how important this organization is to their wellbeing.
"They don't feel abandoned," he said. "They are grateful to talk to our professionals about their concerns and not just told to go to the ER."
Just as important as the influx of cash to pay for salaries and utilities has been donations of masks and other crucial equipment to protect their employees.
"We also had a number of organizations provide lunch for our staff," Scott said.
And while they appreciate the free lunch, Scott said the main thing he'd like is for everyone to "continue to follow social distancing rules to prevent the spread of the virus and take care of your other health needs."