COVID Chronicles: A view inside of the COVID Clinic

Welcome to the COVID Chronicles. These are the behind the scenes stories from Kittitas Valley Healthcare staff at various points in time during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Photo: Toni answering patient questions at the KVH COVID Clinic May 19, 2020.

When Toni Clayton accepted her new position in the Quality Department in April 2020 as the Clinic Quality Service Coordinator, she was excited for a new challenge and workload. What she didn’t know was that due to a SARS CoV-2 pandemic she would be fully immersed in a new Kittitas Valley Healthcare (KVH) COVID Clinic for the next month. 

On March 5, 2020, Toni and other KVH employees went to work planning how the new clinic would function, creating standard work and determining when they would be ready to open the clinic. Luckily, KVH Family Medicine Ellensburg had moved two weeks earlier into the new KVH Medical Arts Center, leaving the old “Valley Clinic” space available and virtually ready to go.

Kittitas County had its first positive COVID-19 patient on March 7 and the clinic opened to support the community. This new clinic was opened to help keep potential COVID patients out of the KVH Emergency Department and KVH Clinics and to prevent unnecessary exposure to additional people.

The teamwork between KVH’s Quality Department, their administration team, Dr. Kevin Martin, Dr. Mark Larson, the Kittitas County Health Department and many others was inspiring she explained. “This collaborative group came together with a shared goal. Seeing it on paper and planning a clinic is one thing,” Toni said. “Seeing it all work in practice was a great success.”

“You can’t say enough about the community coming together, it takes a village for this all to get done,” she said. “We have people working really hard behind the scenes, hours and hours of work went into making this all work for the community.”

When the clinic first opened, Toni spent much of her time working with Dr. John Asriel testing patients for COVID-19, the flu, and answering patient concerns via a new phone line. As a Medical Assistant for 26 years, Toni has had experience with personal protective equipment and communicable illnesses so the environment was not new to her.

“We were never asked to do something in the clinic that our admin team weren’t doing themselves. I was there in the clinic answering phones, and so was the CEO,” Toni explained. “There’s this quote, ‘if you’re too big to serve, you’re too small to lead,’ it really sums up our leaders here. And it makes you pretty proud.”

What can’t Toni wait to do when she can return to semi-normal life? “I’m a hugger, from a family of huggers! My parents are 84 and I went from being their caregiver to not really seeing them at all, which has been really hard,” she said tearfully. “And I want a haircut!”

Hopefully, Toni and the rest of the community will be able to start doing normal things again soon. But until then Toni and the rest of the KVH staff will continue to serve the community they love.