“Never in my life did I imagine that we would be going through something like this,” – Mrs. Oralia Martinez MSN, FNP-C
PSJA Family Clinic is a small, privately owned clinic in Pharr, Texas. Opened five years ago by Nurse Practitioner Oralia Martinez, the clinic serves people of all ages and offers a variety of services, including physicals, vaccines, chronic illness management and small surgical procedures.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in March, Martinez knew she needed to stay open to offer health care for her patients, but it required substantial changes to ensure staff and patient safety. Many of those changes were a challenge for a small clinic like hers.
“Since our cases are still very high and the mortality rate is also high, the best thing for people to do is stay home,” said Martinez. But, that definitely affected the financial aspects of a small business. The clinic was not only seeing fewer patients, but Martinez was struggling with finding cleaning supplies and quality PPE and also affording the incredibly high cost of items critical to the safety of her staff and her patients.
“I never closed my doors to the clinic. I know that other clinics are only doing telehealth medicine for their patients. We have been here for our patients since day one and will continue to do so as long as we can, but we need to protect ourselves,” Martinez said. “Thank God none of my staff have gotten ill or contracted the virus. We have been providing PPE for all my staff. We are seeing COVID-19 patients, so we need to protect ourselves.”
Protecting staff and patients has made it much more difficult to operate during COVID-19. The clinic has seen an increase in staff turnover because staff members are afraid and tired, but the workload for the clinic has increased.
“It seems like we are working harder and making less money as a business,” Martinez said. “We disinfect every room after every patient, and our staff needs to be vigilant to the number of people we have waiting in the lobby. When we had a surge in the number of cases after Labor Day, we were seeing patients outside in 100-degree weather to minimize exposure and minimize the number of staff requiring full PPE.”
To help the clinic continue to offer health care services to its community, Heart to Heart International donated personal protective equipment and medical supplies to PSJA Family Clinic.
“The PPE donation from Heart to Heart has helped out tremendously,” Martinez said. “I am able to offer my entire staff full PPE, and we are now able to bring more patients in and feel safe at the same time. The PPE we use the most are gowns, gloves, shoe covers and masks. Before the donations, we were purchasing all this PPE and sometimes had a hard time getting a hold of any even with our regular suppliers. There were a couple of months when we took a big loss, we spent more money than we had coming due to the purchasing of PPE, cleaning supplies and payroll. We used to be able to operate with less staff, but now we need the extra hands to control the crowd and disinfect after every patient.”
The clinic is located in Rio Grande Valley, considered one of the hot spots for COVID-19. It is hard for Martinez to see so many people in her community despairing from illness, death, financial stress and the loss of small businesses. While they have made improvements, she believes they could all do even better if everyone came together as a community.
“My clinic will continue to serve everyone as long as we have the PPE that we need. I will not risk myself or any of my staff from contracting this deadly virus,” Martinez said. “I can’t thank Heart to Heart International enough. God bless organizations like them, and may continue to help other small businesses like mine. I will be forever grateful to them.”
Thank you to Mrs. Oralia Martinez MSN, FNP-C, for her dedication to her community and for taking time to talk with Heart to Heart International about her clinic.