The way that God has guided the steps of Watermark Health the past 7 years has allowed the ministry to be at the center of the response to COVID-19 for the uninsured community in DFW.
If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that Proverbs 16:9 is true. There was a lot we had in our strategic plans for 2020, but a global pandemic was not included in the list. Looking back on the past 6 months, we can see now that even if we didn't know it was coming, the Lord had been preparing us for these days all along. - Christy Chermak, Executive Director of Watermark Health
On March 20th, DFW was in the middle of a mass shut down. On that same day, the Watermark Health staff team was in the middle of counting the cost of staying open for our patient community. In March, this was a virus that was killing healthcare workers, that we didn't understand the long term impacts of, and that we had seen overwhelm healthcare systems across the globe. On March 20th the staff team let the reality of those circumstances sink in, counted the cost of saying "yes", and still chose to move forward with keeping the clinics open during such a difficult and uncertain time. Processes and best practices were modified for safety purposes, but the clinic doors never closed because of COVID-19. The church body was still there while the world shut down- serving the vulnerable and scared, just like they have been since 2013.
"As Watermark Heath said "yes" to this unprecedented opportunity, we were able to clearly see the many ways God had prepared us for these days. One such way was the groundwork He had laid for us to enter into COVID-19 testing for the uninsured." - Samantha Parsons, Director of Operations
Starting in April, Watermark Health opened a testing site hosted at Watermark Community Church's Dallas campus in partnership with QuestCare Medical Services. That testing site not only provided nasal pharyngeal swabs to the uninsured, but was also an extension of the same ministry that melded spiritual care with medical care since 2013. Every patient that came through was engaged with spiritually and offered prayer before leaving.
Throughout the summer, the site saw over 1,500 patients, over 500 of whom were uninsured. The patient population, full of uninsured essential workers, and their families – tested positive for COVID-19 at a rate four times the Texas average at the time. By helping essential workers access testing, the medical staff was able to provide the correct care and services needed while helping patients to slow the spread among their workplaces and communities. Not to mention, the spiritual and emotional support offered to the workforce that was braving the unknowns of COVID-19 while most of the world was told to stay home.
The results from the testing site identified outbreaks in two area food processing factories as well as a men’s residence facility. The relational way in which the Watermark Health team serves patients led to natural contact tracing that helped discover the outbreaks and ability to notify authorities to help curb the spread. The Watermark Health team continued to test and care for the second wave of exposures from these outbreaks- the families of the essential workers.
The testing site served its purpose through the surge that hit DFW this summer, on the busiest day having a line of over 80 cars waiting to be tested. As testing guidelines and the public health needs of DFW shifted and the trends of new positive cases appear to be decreasing, the centralized site was closed in early September and testing was transitioned to the clinics. At the clinic level, Watermark Health is able to continue providing testing to walk up patients as well during a patient visit for someone exhibiting symptoms. The staff team also continues to take drive through testing to areas of higher need- most recently of which occurred in South Dallas alongside a food distribution day that Watermark Community Church was hosting.
COVID highlighted health disparities we knew existed but had never quite seen up close and personal. Testing in South Dallas allowed us to learn more about the unique needs of a community we hope to continue to serve in the future and remind our patients that even in the chaos of COVID they are seen and not forgotten.- Anna Hughes, RN, Drive through Testing Nurse
The team continues to look ahead, finding ways to meet and innovate towards the new needs that 2020 has revealed.
When COVID-19 hit, it was an opportunity to trust the Lord with all He had done to go before us. Instead of shutting down or slowing down, God had positioned our team to ramp up. The same community that we have served for the past seven years had a new set of needs, and as a team we were honored to flex to meet those new needs. We continue to look forward expectantly...we might not know the details of what tomorrow will bring, but we are confident that God has gone before us. - Christy Chermak, Executive Director
Now, as the fall approaches, Watermark Health needs your help with the new set of needs. As schools open back up and another wave of uninsured workers return to work, it is anticipated that COVID-19 testing will continue to be a high need within the clinic's patient population and especially among parts of DFW with lower access to healthcare services. Your support will make it possible for Watermark Health to continue providing walk up testing at the clinics and hosting drive through test sites in areas of higher need. You can find out more about The New Needs and ways to give here.