The Importance of Community Medicine in a Rural Area

By Stephen Montoya

It’s no secret that hospitals nationwide are experiencing an influx of patients given the scope of the global pandemic.

With this knowledge firmly in place, a few Sandoval County Fire & Rescue personnel are at the forefront of a community medicine program that could help alleviate patient numbers at emergency rooms in the future.

Lt. Shannon Farrell, who was one of the first twelve first responders for SCFR, is spearheading this unique program with the aid of her husband David and Battalion Fire Chief, Chris Bagley.

“We are at the infant stages of this program now,” Farrell said while en route to administer several in-home COVID Vaccine boosters. “Our goal is to go out in the community and help alleviate unnecessary hospital visits if needed.”

The goal of this program, she said, is to do in-home checkups on patients that just underwent surgery or to offer COVID boosters or do an in home COVID test etc., which in the end will help alleviate the number of people going into emergency rooms.

“As you well know, emergency rooms are overwhelmed with the number of patients that come in every day,” Farrell said. “With this program we can help lessen the stress these healthcare workers are currently facing.”

For example, Farrell and her Husband dedicated an entire day to visit homebound residents that requested a COVID booster in various areas of Sandoval County.

“This is the type of work the hospitals don’t have the time or manpower to take on,” she said. “So we are going out into the community to help where we can.”

After several turns on a dirt road with no signs in Placitas, New Mexico, Farrell and her husband pull up on a small shack surrounded by trees and a few pinned in donkeys.

As they prepare their equipment, an older man appears from behind the door of a shack, while simultaneously placing chairs for his unexpected guests, in a circle in front of his abode.

“Hi,” he says with a welcoming tone.

The man is Henry Adams and he has been living in Placitas for several years in an 8×8 tiny house that has running water and a wood stove.

“I have a coal stove that I burn wood out of and I usually don’t get up until the sun has warmed up my side of this structure because it’s cold in the mornings here,” he said while raising his right sleeve to prepare for the COVID booster.

Farrell cleans the area where she will be giving Adams the shot and skillfully asks about his living situation.

“I am originally from Pennsylvania,” he continues. “I was an architect that specialized in making models and puzzles. I have a few of my designs on display at the Modern Art Museum in New York.”

Both Farrell and her husband David listen as they assess Adams for 15 minutes to ensure he doesn’t have any reaction to the booster.

After the 15 minutes is up, both Farrell and her husband say their good byes and prepare to head back to their vehicle, fully aware of Adam’s living situation and mind set.

“If he hadn’t asked for us to come out and administer a booster, we would’ve never known this man’s story,” Farrell said back in the truck. “Now we know where David (Adams) lives and can check on him or try and gather resources for him down the line if need be.”

According to Farrell, this type of program started around the country five years ago and has been so productive that many first responders have picked up on it.

“Some places like Santa Fe…their community medicine focuses on mental health,” she said. “Each place can kind of customize what they’ve decided to make it, according to the needs of the community.”

Farrell said, COVID testing and administering shots is her current main priority for Sandoval County.

“Community medicine is really a simple concept that gives aid to the community and helps alleviate long lines at the emergency room,” she said. “That’s the concept in a nutshell.”