May 7, 2020
MNHC offers services from various health professionals such as behavioral health clinicians and pediatricians. One group of health professionals that often fly under the radar but are key to the health outcomes to many of our patients is the Registered Dietitians (RDs).
MNHC offers primary health care services to over 12,000 patients a year. The team of dietitians consists of two RDs and they see over 800 patients a year. They tend to support patients who present with chronic conditions such as diabetes and hypertension as well as prenatal patients.
During this pandemic, the RDs have made their top priority to ensure food security patients who have become even more vulnerable such as those with chronic conditions, those over 60 years of age and families with children. This has also included identifying free resources in the community such as Food Pantries, which are frequently shared with patients.
During this challenging time, the RDs have encountered over 300 patients who have lost their income, being financially impacted by COVID-19. The RDs have taken the leadership in providing gift cards and mailing vouchers so these patients can save the money they would have otherwise used for food to pay for rent and other needs. “It has been a challenging new process that we have had to create solutions for but it has been rewarding to help out a family in need. We plan to continue to develop more projects to help a larger portion of our patients,” Mary Liang, Registered Dietitian, stated. This included the initiative to provide 57 full bags of healthy groceries – which was spear headed by Soraya Urrutia, Operations Coordinator – for community members to collect on May 1, 2020.
WIC – a supplemental food program for prenatal women and children under five – normally takes weeks for patients to enroll into; In collaboration with the RD’s, Daniela Vargas, RN for Adult Medicine and Women’s Clinic developed an internal workflow, which has expedited the enrollment process to two days. This means that patients receive a debit card, which they can use in participating supermarkets to get food for a balanced diet.
“Things are constantly changing,” Jackie Fangonilo, Chronic Care Coordinator and Registered Dietitian added, “as we have shifted to more case management work including helping with finances and other applications to receive money for rent and utilities.” One of the main challenges encountered are when patients need to be in isolation because they are COVID-19 positive or live with someone who is. The RDs have set food delivery services to reduce community spread and support those patients.
Overall, the two RDs have made huge strides in reaching a good number of community members to assist them. “I’m impressed to see how quickly staff and the community got together to help those in need,” Jackie concluded, which only leaves us with the hope and commitment to continue to serve our community and patients who have been hugely impacted by this unprecedented and challenging time.
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