Morris: A virus alters reality at Church Health

By , Special to The Daily Memphian Updated: March 26, 2020 9:46 AM CT | Published: March 26, 2020 4:00 AM CT
G. Scott Morris
Special to The Daily Memphian

G. Scott Morris

The Rev. Dr. G. Scott Morris, M.D., is founder and chief executive officer of Church Health. He is a regular contributor to The Daily Memphian.

I began my day today walking into Crosstown Concourse. My first stop was to get my temperature taken. According to my forehead swipe, I was 97.9 degrees. No fever. I received a wristband to wear all day that lets everyone know I am cleared to work. Had my temperature been over 100, I would have been sent home.

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Next, I was given a paper bag and my personal surgical mask. I am to wear a mask at all times while in the clinic and change it out every four hours. The personal paper bag is to keep the mask in if and when I take it off. The coronavirus can live much longer on plastic than in a paper bag.

<strong>G. Scott Morris</strong>

G. Scott Morris

After a few minutes at my desk, I went to work in the clinic. Because of the organization’s desire to protect me, I am not seeing patients who have respiratory symptoms, and I am no longer seeing people in the exam rooms where I usually work. As the CEO of Church Health it makes sense, but as a physician who has always worked on the front line, I feel like I’m shirking my duty. It’s disconcerting. I feel guilty.

I got to work.

My first patient began with, “I was afraid to come to the clinic.” I pointed out to her that Church Health is now Fort Knox, and that you can argue that our clinic is one of the safest places you can be. She laughed.

She came because she has a large abscess on her abdomen. She has diabetes, and her blood sugar is nowhere close to being under control. Her problem today was hard to manage while trying to stay 6 feet away. I did what I thought was the right thing to do clinically.

The morning kept going. A 30-year-old construction worker who hurt his back four days ago was in unbearable pain. Normally, I would get an MRI of his back, but MRI is shut down except for emergencies, so that’s not possible today. Neither is seeing our physical therapist because that’s hands-on treatment and for now we aren’t doing that. I gave him medication to manage the pain and reduce the inflammation. It wasn’t ideal, but it was what I could do today.

A woman who recently moved to Memphis has lupus, which causes her lots of problems. She is out of her medicine. The one that helps the most is hydroxychloroquine, the drug the president has been touting as a possible cure for COVID-19. Who knows if it works for the virus, but now it is hard for her to get hydroxychloroquine from the pharmacy for her lupus.

In the middle of the morning there was a scare that one of our medical assistants might have the virus. I took a deep breath. Then I was told, “It is a false alarm.” I breathed again.

As the morning went on my mask kept falling down on my nose. I kept pushing it back up. Putting my hands up to my face is just what I’m not supposed to be doing. All of this is easier said than done.

When I finished the morning, I carefully put my mask in my paper bag and went looking for something to eat. Crosstown has become a ghost village. It is eerily pretty, but it isn’t supposed to be this way.

Every day has been changing for us at Church Health. While I was seeing patients, our teams were working on a drive-thru virus screening system. We are moving beyond sending tests to the State Health Department and instead going to a private lab that will charge us $55 a test. For now, I just can’t worry about the money.

We are screening people we suspect have COVID-19 and they need the tests. But we’re also seeing patients with ongoing diseases or who just got hurt and still need care. Tomorrow when someone takes my temperature and hands me a mask and a paper bag, I’ll remember that everybody I’m about to see is also adjusting to new realities. I’ll do what I can to help while keeping everyone as safe as possible. 

I am so proud of our team. They are dedicated and passionate about doing this right. It is true of everyone I am now talking to around the city. We are in this together. Of that there is no doubt.


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COVID-19 Church Health Crosstown Concourse G. Scott Morris


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