Tara Bone, contributing writer
When COVID-19, the fast-spreading disease caused by a new coronavirus made its way to Cache Valley this year, fear of the unknown rippled through communities and caused particular concern for pregnant women worried about how the virus would affect them and their unborn babies. Fortunately, expectant mothers could turn to the Cache Valley Women’s Center at the Lodge where doctors and staff have been a stable and steady part of the community for over 15 years.
Jodi Sickler, the lodge’s office manager, says the bottom line in everything the lodge does is to take care of patients in the safest environment possible. She says that is exactly what the staff has been doing since the lodge opened in October 2004.
In the early 2000s, obstetrician-gynecologists Dr. Barry Noorda and Dr. Gary Fowers both had individual practices in Cache Valley and started to discuss joining forces to build a place where women would receive quality care in a one-of-a-kind beautiful, home-like environment. The doctors worked to make their vision a reality in the form of Cache Valley Women’s Center at the Lodge. Dr. David Kirkman joined them when the lodge opened, and Dr. Anne Blackett joined the team in 2007.
Others have joined the team, and Jodi says today the team is composed of qualified professionals who care for their patients with compassion. Three experienced physician assistants and a certified nurse-midwife bring a wealth of knowledge to the group. The lodge provides a variety of services that span a woman’s life, from her first exam to pregnancy and menopause. The Lodge is a busy place that takes a lot of coordination and cooperation among staff members to provide top-notch care. Jodi says on a typical day before COVID-19, between 130-140 patients on average received care there. Though the lodge is busy, staff members strive to make every patient feel at home. Stephanie Fricke is one of those patients.
“I have been with Cache Valley Women’s Center since it opened, and they have always treated me like I was the most important patient regardless of what I needed to be seen for,” Stephanie said. “What I appreciate the most is that when I’m sick and need to see a doctor they manage to fit me into their schedule.”
When the pandemic hit Cache Valley, expectant mothers still needed health care and babies still needed to be welcomed into the world. According to Jodi, their entire team promptly adjusted policies and procedures to ensure the safety of patients, staff, and the community. “When this pandemic started, we didn’t hesitate,” Jodi said. “Our providers and staff knew that our pregnant patients still needed to be seen … We wanted them to feel safe and comfortable when they came to their appointments.”
The lodge immediately communicated to patients that they were following the Center for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines, and they continue to do so. These guidelines continue to evolve and are updated at cvwomenscenter.com. Lodge precautions include the use of face masks and hand sanitizer by patients and staff, spacing between appointments, increased frequency of sanitization for every office area, and limits on those who can come to appointments. Appointments that weren’t emergent were also rescheduled, or completed through telehealth.
Doctors and staff members have successfully worked through the COVID-19 adjustments and will continue to be an integral part of the Cache Valley community. Jodi feels that the center’s success stems from how doctors treat patients and employees. She’s been working at the center for 12 years and says not once has she ever regretted it.
“They [the physicians] treat their staff like family. In fact, they always refer to their office and all of their employees as their office family,” Jodi said. “They treat their patients the same way. They and the entire staff truly care about the well-being of their patients.