Virus Diaries: Arkansas Urology Aims to Take Pressure Off Health Care System

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Editor’s Note: This is the latest in a series of short features on businesses responding to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

Arkansas Urology has sent about 40% of its 300 employees home to work and taken several steps to not only protect patients but also do its part in preventing the state’s health care system from becoming overwhelmed. 

The company, established in 1996, has 15 clinics throughout Arkansas plus a surgical center at its main clinic in Little Rock.

Arkansas Urology has let hospitals and their emergency rooms know that its surgery center in Little Rock can handle urgent urological procedures, said CEO E. Scot Davis. The removal of kidney stones is the most common.

Davis said sending those procedures to Arkansas Urology will free up intensive care unit beds that COVID-19 patients with severe symptoms may need. 

The company is also offering telehealth services and has suspended non-emergency services at its surgical center, now only offering organ-preserving and life-extending procedures. Ten employees have been let go, employee hours have been reduced, and managers and physicians have taken pay cuts, Davis said.

In the lobby of its clinics, staff initially began spacing out chairs to encourage social distancing. Now patients are asked to wait in their cars and come to the lobby when texted by the clinic’s staff. 

This week, the clinics began offering drive-thru services, he said. Patients are also being told to check in then park in designated areas so that staff can go to them. 

“These are typically going to be prostate cancer patients that we need to do blood draws on or prostate cancer patients that have injection therapy for prostate cancer,” Davis said. “So that’s new. We just started that this week; that’s actually working really well.”

He’s also thinking of the future. 

“One of the important things for us is that, on the other side of, whenever we find this curve, we’re going to be real busy again. And probably busier than we were before,” Davis said. “And so we want to make sure that we retain as many of our employees as we can. We’ve applied for a small business loan. We’ve applied for other types of support through the CARES Act to help us manage our cash flow and our cash crunch during this time.” 

Davis serves on the national board for the Large Urology Group Practice Association as well, and Arkansas Urology is collaborating with other urology practicas on best practices to follow during the pandemic. 

“Our biggest concern right now is how long is this going to be. We can withstand this for, you know, for a month or two, but beyond that, I think we’re going to be like the rest of the country,” he said. “It’ll be difficult. It’s hard to predict right now.”