How Texas MedClinic spent nearly 20 years planning for a pandemic

September 22, 2020

SAN ANTONIO – A medical worker in protective gear administers the COVID-19 nose swab test while the patient sits in her car. It’s part of a coordinated drive-thru testing effort at a Texas MedClinic on the city’s southwest side.

Wait times at the company’s urgent cares have stretched to hours at each location, with the network of clinics doing more than 1,500 rapid COVID-19 tests a day.

There’s a reason that much testing is even possible: the company’s been preparing for a pandemic for almost 20 years.

In a conversation with the Trouble Shooters, company owner Dr. Buddy Swift explained why he felt a big public health emergency occurring was only a matter of time.

“Well, actually it started back after 9/11,” Dr. Swift said. “There was a realization that this is a new world now.”

He geared up for the unknown by researching chemical, radiation and biological exposure. As viruses like SARS and H1N1 emerged, the plans evolved.

But no matter the threat, Dr. Swift said he knew urgent cares would be on the front lines.

“It’s been 17 years, really, since we began to assemble all this material,” Dr. Swift said.

“What were you assembling?” reporter Emily Baucum asked.

“We have masks, gowns, gloves. I have more Tamiflu than you can imagine that’s sitting in a warehouse right now,” Dr. Swift answered.

He said the warehouse with reinforced walls is under lock and key in an undisclosed location. Dr. Swift estimated over the years, the stockpile cost Texas MedClinic hundreds of thousands of dollars.

“It was a difficult decision at the time. You had to spend some money preparing for that,” Dr. Swift said.

Now that the emergency he prepared for is here, he said the investment paid off: Texas MedClinic has enough protective gear for staff and patients to feel safe during the pandemic. The company also has a vendor with a good supply of rapid COVID-19 tests.

“It’s one thing to plan for a pandemic. It’s another thing for it to actually happen. What did you learn in the past couple of months?” Baucum asked.

“Well, I think we are very comfortable that we were prepared very well,” Dr. Swift said. “We learned probably most significantly that we had to alter things to keep people out of our waiting rooms, where they felt more comfortable in their cars or in an exam room not exposed to other people in the area.”

He asked the public to keep in mind, though, that the community supply of testing is limited. That’s why you’re seeing Texas MedClinic pull back on asymptomatic testing for people Dr. Swift calls “the walking worried,” in order to be sure people who are really sick take priority.

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