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Nonprofit Catholic medical clinic committed to serving COVID-19 patients

On March 23, Bella Health & Wellness began offering a drive-through clinic for people experiencing COVID-19 symptoms. It fit perfectly with the nonprofit medical practice’s mission.

“To have our community scared and alone in their symptoms is not in the mission of Bella,” said Dede Chism, Bella’s co-founder and executive director. “The mission of Bella is to make people whole.”

Disturbed that people who weren’t sick enough to be hospitalized but who were experiencing fever, cough and shortness of breath — the telltale signs of the novel coronavirus — needed to be evaluated and tested, Chism took her concern to prayer.

“The Lord very clearly said, ‘Go back to where you started,’” Chism said. “So we looked back to our mission roots.”

Ten years ago, Chism and her daughter Abbey Sinnett, who are both nurse practitioners, had finished a medical mission in the high Andes Mountains of Peru and felt God was calling them to take that spirit of holistic health care back home. Two years later, they opened Bella under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Archdiocese of Denver.

“Who knows, maybe it was about this moment in time [God was speaking of] when he said, ‘Take this back to my people,’” Chism mused. “It has never been the way of Catholics in health care and in our Church to walk away from crises such as the plague. It has been the way of the Church to respond with the zeal of the martyrs and the saints.”

To have our community scared and alone in their symptoms is not in the mission of Bella. The mission of Bella is to make people whole.”

Chism and staff settled on the drive-through clinic as the best way to see and treat patients with COVID-19 symptoms that would keep both the patients and others safe.

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The drive-through clinic is located in the parking lot of Bella Health and Wellness, 180 E. Hampden Ave. in Englewood. Hours are 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Patients should plan for a telemedicine visit prior to a drive-through appointment, Chism said, which minimizes unnecessary exposure and permits assessing the proper care. In addition to fever, cough and shortness of breath, those experiencing congestion, sore throat, aches and influenza-like symptoms are also being seen in the drive-through clinic. In the drive-through, medical personnel in protective gear will check a patient’s vital signs and examine them.

“We evaluate and treat them just as if they are in our office, but we’ve made their car the exam room,” Chism said. “We discuss the treatment plan, test for whatever needs tested, and order any other tests. We give prescriptions and directions on home care, quarantine and keeping family safe.”

Dede Chism performs a drive-through check up on a patient at Bella Health + Wellness. The clinic is offering drive-through testing for people experiencing COVID-19 symptoms. (Photo from Bella’s Facebook page)

Although COVID-19 tests are scarce, working with a private laboratory Bella is able to do two to 10 COVID-19 tests per day and is expecting rapid tests (which must be backed up by a lab test) to be available soon, Chism said. The drive-through clinic also does influenza and strep testing if indicated.

The drive-through clinic is averaging six to 10 cars daily, but Chism said staffers were preparing for a surge in traffic to occur around Easter (April 12), when COVID-19 cases were expected to peak in the state. The surge is expected to last about a week or two, she said.

“God-willing, all the shelter-in-place is making a difference to decrease the spread of the virus,” Chism said, urging people to follow the prevention recommendations to stay home, wash hands often, and observe social distancing of six feet. “That cannot be emphasized enough.”

Healthy and noncontagious patient visits — including pregnancy and well-child check-ups — are held inside the Bella offices, Chism said. Even so, just over half of all Bella patients are receiving telemedicine visits.

“We want people to be able to seek care and get care at this moment in time if they need it,” she said. “We want for them to be well in body, mind and soul.”

Cost for a drive-through visit is $100 plus testing fees. Bella accepts most insurance plans.

“We’re going to continue [the drive-through] as long as needed,” Chism said.

Bella Health & Wellness

180 E. Hampden Ave.
Englewood, CO 80113

Roxanne King
Roxanne King
Roxanne King is the former editor of the Denver Catholic Register and a freelance writer in the Denver area.

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