Hospital starts clinic for patients with chronic Lyme
By Arline A. Fleming/Independent Staff Writer
SOUTH KINGSTOWN — For several years, doctors and infection control specialists at South County Hospital have discussed the idea of starting a Lyme disease clinic to serve patients with complex health issues not responding to traditional treatment.
According to Lee Ann Quinn, manager of South County Hospital’s Occupational Health Services and Infection Control, the discussions led to surveys sent to primary care physicians asking if they would support such a venture.
A feasibility study was conducted, and conversations were held with the medical director of the Lyme disease clinic at Rhode Island Hospital, the only other clinic in Rhode Island of which Quinn was aware.
Now the hospital has opened its Lyme Disease Clinic and begun taking referrals from local physicians. Quinn said that the Friday clinic, held from 9 a.m. to noon and 1 to 3 p.m., is based in the hospital’s Emergency Room, Area B. Patients will be seen by appointment only.
This isn’t a clinic, she said, for the person who discovers a tick or bull’s eye rash somewhere on their bodies and wants to start treatment for suspected Lyme disease. It’s for the patient with a case so complex “that they are not responding to therapies,” Quinn said.
Chronic Lyme is the focus and not acute Lyme infection, she said. “The primary care physicians are recognizing the need for another set of eyes.”
So once an appointment is set – and this clinic already is booked into mid-July – the patient will see Dr. Frederic Silverblatt, Dr. Jeffrey Bandola, Quinn and other staff members in what she said will be a substantial appointment.
“We’ll take a very detailed history of the patient and spend a lot of time with them,” Quinn said.
Quinn came up with the idea for such a clinic several years back.
“It’s been my passion for a long time,” she said.
“We were getting calls from patients asking for referrals because they had chronic Lyme and weren’t getting anywhere. They wanted to be able to talk to someone.”
But she warns that it is not a drop-in clinic. Patients have to be referred by their primary care physician or an ER physician. Once the patient is seen at the clinic, Quinn said, “we’ll coordinate their care.”
Quinn said they got 51 responses to the survey of primary care physicians and specialists, with 33 stating they would refer a patient to a clinic if they had one. Of those surveyed, 20 said they were seeing an increase in Lyme disease, 21 said the numbers had stayed the same and three said it was lower, while some didn’t respond to that question at all.
Quinn said she believes there is a greater awareness of tick-borne illnesses. Clinic physicians and staff recently offered a lecture about the symptoms of Lyme disease at the Neighborhood Guild, which attracted a substantial audience, she said.
The clinic, to offer comprehensive diagnosis and treatment for not just Lyme disease, but also babesiosis, ehrilichiosis and other tick-borne diseases, is for adults only, and all major insurance plans will be accepted and standard co-pays will apply.
To schedule an appointment, call 788-1486. Although the clinic will be open on Fridays only, calls to schedule an appointment can be made Monday through Friday, 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
Quinn also suggests checking the hospital’s Web site, www.schospital.com, for more information about Lyme disease.