A Beacon in New York City
March 24, 2020
According to the New York Times, New York State has roughly 5 percent of coronavirus cases worldwide, and New York City, a disease epicenter, has over 25 percent of all COVID-19 patients in the U.S. As of this morning, there were more than 1,800 people hospitalized, and over 450 in ICUs across the city. It is hard to imagine “the city that never sleeps” with near empty streets in the middle of the day, but the city has closed all non-essential businesses and gatherings, and most folks now seem to be taking it seriously. But there has been conflicting messaging from local, state and federal sources about the virus, and it has created an atmosphere of fear and confusion.
Beacon Christian Community Health Center, located on Staten Island, is living up to its name. Beacon is a Christ-centered Federally Qualified Health Center and a long-time member of the CCHF community. It’s founders, Drs. David and Janet Kim, were tailor-made for a situation like this. David is a med/peds doc with training in emergency preparedness; and Janet, also a med/peds doc, is trained in epidemiology. After Hurricane Sandy hit New York in 2012, the Kims played a significant role in setting up emergency medical care for Staten Island. They consulted other CCHF clinics after Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, and they have offered workshops on emergency preparedness. It is almost like they were born for this.
“God has called us to be a beacon during this crisis. There is so much fear and misinformation out there. A big part of our role is to help people respect this virus, but not fear it.” I spoke at length with David Kim this morning. “Our numbers are down. Everyone’s numbers are down. There are times we are all humanly tired and concerned. But our phones are ringing off the wall with people who are terrified and panicking. It’s like everything they built their lives around is crumbling. I can’t tell you how powerful it is to share with them that God is still in control, and that He cares about them.”
David shared that during this crisis, there were three main roles they felt they were called to fulfill. First, they were to be a beacon to the people of New York – to be a visible pillar of truth and peace, helping them understand the facts in a way that empowers them and dispels fear. Second, they were to keep showing up, taking care of all of the things that people can’t go to the hospital for now. They are still providing full scope primary care and making sure their patients have continuity of care. And third, they are deeply involved at the state and local level with the health departments and hospitals, facilitating reliable exchange of information and coordinated care. Through it all, they are dedicated to show and share the love of Jesus, pointing people to God as their source of security, life and peace.
I asked David about some ways this pandemic has impacted their work:
- Their patient volume is down by approximately 25 percent due to increased no-shows, but they are still providing full service primary care.
- About half of their patient encounters are in-office, and half are tele-medicine. That seems to be working pretty well. Tele-health visits with video for Medicaid patients are billable, and they hope that when Congress passes the relief bill this week that tele-health visits with Medicare patients will also be billable.
- Their staff is doing well, in part because of clear protocols, systems and training that have been put into place, and in greater part because they are reminding each other that they are people whose faith in God and dedication to the mission is real and strong
- They have set up a dedicated space inside the clinic for patients who present with symptoms, have had exposure to someone with COVID-19, or have visited countries where there has been an outbreak of the virus. They are following CDC guidelines to the letter.
- They find social media to be particularly critical in their work right now. Their social media presence and messaging has generated a lot of opportunities to stay in touch with their neighbors, to share helpful information, and has created a lot of ministry opportunities as they address anxiety and fear among their neighbors.
- Prayer: Keep praying for their staff, and pray for them to remain faithful to their mission throughout this crisis. While others are running away from this disease, Beacon senses God’s call to run towards it. Pray also for the financial, economic and other inevitable social challenges that will impact not only Beacon itself, but our underserved community, as well as the entire city, for a long time to come.
I appreciate David and the team at Beacon. They have always strived to love people well, and to respectfully and boldly share the hope we have in Christ. As we talked today, I was reminded that we help our patients and neighbors find inexplicable and unshakable peace when we direct them to take their anxieties to God in prayer (Philippians 4:6-7). That goes for us, too.
Of course, everything is a bit on hold right now. So far I’ve only seen an official count of two cases of the coronavirus documented here, and so we’re several weeks behind most of you. The country has had a bit of a different approach to the virus.
I’m working the respiratory screening clinic at our critical access hospital/clinic. Personally, this medical crisis has actually acutely resolved my feeling of burnout.
For years and years the media has tended to sensationalize every little thing, which is making it very hard to hear the voices that are sounding a REAL alarm. We doctors don’t tend to be alarmist.