Pinellas Health News sig

BayCare introduces nurse triage service

CLEARWATER — BayCare Health System recently launched a service to help individuals in the community who are concerned about COVID-19 symptoms.

With the nurse triage service, patients can call seven days a week to ask a highly skilled nurse questions about the novel coronavirus. Under this program, BayCare nurses help triage patients with COVID-19 concerns and direct them to the proper care. When appropriate, they also can screen patients and refer them to testing at any BayCare COVID-19 drive-thru location.

Patients who call 1-800-BAYCARE or BayCare Medical Group clinics will be able to hear a recording and press a number to access a nurse.

The nurse triage does not provide diagnosis or treatment for COVID-19. Patients should talk to a doctor or see a medical provider through BayCareAnywhere to discuss treatment options. The nurse triage is available Monday through Friday, 6 a.m. to 9 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday, 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.

This is an extension to BayCare’s efforts to provide access to various COVID-19 resources for the community. BayCare also recently launched an online screening tool where people can conveniently check their symptoms using a series of questions, which suggests the appropriate care.

For information about the nurse triage, visit

BayCare Medical Group adjusts primary care services during pandemic

BayCare Medical Group recently altered its primary care services to maximize access for patients while reducing risk of exposure to the novel coronavirus in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to BMG, a multi-specialty medical group, the precautions are needed now to ensure it can serve patients later if there is a surge of COVID-19 cases in West Central Florida. The changes come after studying other models successful in maintaining health care access in the pandemic.

“We want to make clear we are doing all we can to protect patients so they get the help they need today — but also weeks from now,” said Dr. Andrew Fink, chief medical officer for BMG, which has more than 600 providers. “We also need to make sure we are protecting health care workers so they are available to serve our community.”

Already, BMG’s primary care doctors are offering to move appointments, when appropriate, to a telehealth platform so patients can obtain medical care without leaving their home. This is the preferred method for assessing BMG patients who have respiratory complaints and/or symptoms suspicious for coronavirus. If those patients need additional care, they are referred to an appropriate medical facility.

Beginning April 13, BMG consolidated offices for those patients who need to be seen in person. Locations will be assigned to one of two categories:

1) Acute care: Offices designated for seeing ill patients

2) Non-acute care: For patients who need services such as chronic care management, prescription refills or follow-up care.

Doctors and advanced care professionals will rotate between locations to give patients an opportunity for follow-up care with their primary care provider, if possible. At offices not currently open for patient exams, staff will continue to field calls to direct patients to locations that are seeing patients.

Pinellas acute care locations are as follows:

  • Dunedin Primary Care, 180 Patricia Ave., Dunedin; 727-733-4193
  • Palm Harbor Family Care and Internal Medicine, 30522 U.S. 19 N., Suite 119, Palm Harbor; 727-784-3005
  • Bardmoor Family Practice, 8787 Bryan Dairy Road, Suite 250, Largo; 727-391-6296
  • Suncoast Family Medicine, 620 10th St. N., Suite 1E, St. Petersburg; 727-824-3120
  • Pinellas non-acute care locations are as follows:
  • Countryside Primary Care, 3251 McMullen Booth Road, Suite 104, Clearwater; 727-799-0415
  • Highland Lakes Primary Care, 34041 U.S. 19 N., Suite E, Palm Harbor; 727-953-8407
  • Landmark Primary Care, 2531 Landmark Drive, Suite 103, Clearwater; 727-796-4840
  • Bardmoor Internal Medicine & Pediatrics, 8787 Bryan Dairy Road, Suite 275, Largo; 727-394-5650
  •  Allendale, 6801 Fourth St. N., St. Petersburg; 727-822-3238
  • Suncoast Medical Clinic Gateway, 7751 Ninth St. N., Suite 10, St. Petersburg; 727-521-2424

The Pasco acute care location is at Oak View Family Care, 2102 Trinity Oaks Blvd., Suite 216, New Port Richey. Call 727-375-0405.

There are two Pasco non-acute care locations, including the following:

  • Easthaven Family Medicine, 8600 Easthaven Court, New Port Richey; 727-375-7929
  • River Crossing Family Care, 8601 Easthaven Court, New Port Richey; 727-372-0096

BMG also is adopting a staffing model for these offices to reflect best practices found in other parts of the world in dealing with infectious disease. Teams will work 14-day shifts, providing natural isolation windows in the event that a health care professional is exposed to a COVID-19 patient.

Patients who have appointments are being contacted to confirm a location for the appointment or reschedule to a more convenient time, if necessary. They are also being offered the option to schedule a telehealth visit with their doctor. Patients with questions should reach out to their provider’s office, where phones will continue to be answered even if an office is closed. Due to infection prevention plans, all patients are being seen on an appointment-only basis.

Moffitt Foundation creates COVID-19 Frontline Response Fund

TAMPA — As patients continue to seek lifesaving care during the COVID-19 pandemic, Moffitt Cancer Center is doing everything possible to protect the immunocompromised, as well as its own health care team.

This includes strengthening safety measures, harnessing technology and expanding research beyond cancer to better understand this virus. The COVID-19 Frontline Response Fund was created by the Moffitt Cancer Center Foundation to advance three critical areas — patient support, telemedicine and research. As its nurses, physicians and researchers are assisting to combat the pandemic, Moffitt wants to ensure patients and team members have the extra support needed in these uncertain times.

“Our foundation created and launched the COVID-19 Frontline Response Fund to support the complex needs of our patients, as well as our team members who are ensuring the health and safety of our patients during this difficult time,” said Maria Muller, president of the Moffitt Foundation. “While this virus has altered the way of life for many, the demand for world-class cancer care for our patients remains unchanged.”

The COVID-19 fund will help Moffitt’s most vulnerable patients who cannot wait until the world returns to normal to receive care. The need to provide a virtual connection also has become critical for many cancer patients. Telemedicine offers some patients the ability to receive care from the comfort of their own homes — potentially reducing their level of stress from the current crisis. While virtual visits at Moffitt have spiked to nearly 350 a day, up from 100 a month in early March, more patients will need virtual care as social distancing recommendations and stay-at-home orders remain in effect.

As new details emerge about the coronavirus every day, Moffitt researchers are lending their knowledge to help better understand the virus and its impact. The response fund will support researchers conducting antibody and immune response research related to COVID-19.

“Funds for research are very critical,” Muller said. “Our researchers are investigating how the body’s immune system reacts to and fights COVID-19 infection, which in turn could lead to new treatments or a vaccine in the future.”

The foundation has received a $100,000 donation to kick off the response fund and is accepting additional gifts of any amount.

To donate or learn more about the COVID-19 Frontline Response Fund, visit

Pinellas students graduate from Palmer College

PALM HARBOR — Two Pinellas students graduated with a Doctor of Chiropractic degree March 27 from Palmer College of Chiropractic's Florida campus in Port Orange.

The students were Cameron Gholampour of Palm Harbor and Sarah Sullivan of Palm Harbor.

Palmer College of Chiropractic has campuses in Davenport, Iowa; San Jose, California; and Port Orange.

Tampa General Hospital joins in national research to fight COVID-19

TAMPA — As a leading academic medical center, Tampa General Hospital is participating in significant national research studies as part of the nation’s fight against COVID-19.

Tampa General has already been accepted as a research site in several of the nation’s most important clinical trials. The hospital is conducting its own research as well.

“As we all have been affected by this global pandemic, innovation brings hope to fighting COVID-19. Tampa General is one of the few hospitals in Florida able to commit so many resources to seeking new therapies,” said John Couris, president and CEO of Tampa General. “This is a testament to the power of academic medicine. Because we’re an academic medical center, we have the teams of experts and the clinical infrastructure already in place and ready to go.”

Tampa General is the primary teaching hospital of the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine. Physicians on the medical staff and participating in research include USF Health faculty physicians and physicians from private practice groups.

“We’re fortunate to have so many USF Health faculty members and private practice physicians committed to advancing medicine through research,” Couris said. “Their drive to be at the forefront of discovery helps us deliver world-class care to our patients, especially during this time of need.”

National studies that Tampa General Hospital is participating in include:

  • Enrolling health care workers in a national data base, called the Healthcare Worker Exposure Response & Outcomes Registry, that may ultimately determine whether an investigational drug, hydroxychloroquine, can help prevent COVID-19 infections.
  • Research to see whether infusions of antibody-rich plasma from recovering COVID-19 patients can help treat patients who are severely ill.
  • Trial of a monoclonal antibody in a new indication designed to modulate the body’s immune response so that it doesn’t damage the lungs and other organs.

The HERO Registry launched April 13. The registry invites U.S. health care workers at participating sites, including Tampa General, to share clinical and life experiences to better understand the perspectives and problems faced by those on the COVID-19 pandemic front lines.

In addition, Tampa General is conducting independent research studies. These include a trial of the effectiveness of hydroxychloroquine to treat patients with COVID-19 and a project with USF Health to see whether nasal swabs created using a 3D printer are as effective as traditional swabs, as traditional swabs have been in short supply.

“We hope that this research will produce new weapons in the fight against COVID-19,” said Dr. Sally Houston, executive vice president and chief medical officer. “At Tampa General, we practice innovation every day in delivering world-class care to our patients. Now we’re taking that same innovative approach and focusing it on a new target — COVID-19. We’re committed to doing everything we can to help Florida and our nation find new solutions to overcome the greatest health challenge of our lifetimes.”

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