By Tom Travis
About a dozen medical professionals and two hospital administration staff were on hand at Atwood Stadium’s parking lot today for Flint’s first drive through Covid-19 testing. Though 50 people had made a required appointment, there were no lines in the early hours, with about three or four cars coming through. Appointments are necessary to enter the testing area. Each test takes between 5 to 10 minutes to complete.
Editor’s note: EVM staff writer Jerry Bradshaw was one of those tested today. His account is available here.
Test participants remain in their car throughout the process. Each test participant pulls up to a large green tent with a canopy on either side. Signs in both lanes clearly instruct the driver where to stop. One sign instructs the driver to turn their ignition off during the testing.
Medical professionals are all donned in personal protection equipment (PPE). Those who are administering the Covid-19 test are covered from head to toe with PPE including a see- through face guard.
EVM spoke with John Stewart, Hurley Hospital’s Service Line Administrator for Emergency Services. Stewart stated he is responsible for disaster preparedness and emergency management.
Stewart said those who are allowed to be tested must meet the state’s criteria for testing which is a list of symptoms. Stewart added that if you are an actively symptomatic person doing the phone screening staff will make an appointment for you. If you’re not symptomatic and do not fit the criteria for testing, you’ll be referred to your own primary care physician or directed to stay home and quarantine until or if you become more symptomatic.
Appointments are necessary to be tested. Stewart said there were 50 participants signed up for Wednesday.
“We are running this Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 10 a.n. to 2 p.m. Appointments are made in 5-minute intervals. We ask for insurance and ID information. For those without insurance we’re developing a process for that testing procedure as well.
Asked if uninsured testing participants could be tested, he said, “We are trying to figure out how we can support that.” But Stewart said uninsured participants are allowed to go through with the testing at this time.
The medical professionals at the testing site included both emergency room and internal medicine physicians. Their role is to give an overview of the test to the participants. They review the discharge instructions and what to do with the test results. There is also registration staff that puts all the participants information in the computer. Medical assistants are doing the actual swabbing.
Mitra Tewari, Administrative Director of Clinical Laboratory and Microbiology/Serology/Molecular Manager of Sterile Services at Hurley explained that Warde Laboratory is processing the Covid-19 tests conducted at the Flint site. Tewari said, “we gather the patients’ information and then we package up the specimens and take them to the lab in Ann Arbor where we do the processing.”
Tewari said that the turnaround for results is one to two days. And he said each patient will be contacted by the lab. Those who test positive will be contacted by phone. Those who test negative will receive results in the mail.
Tewari said it is an “uncomfortable” test. He said patients sometimes will have the urge to cough or sneeze as the swab is placed in the nasal cavity. He said many patients experience eye watering during the testing.
Mayor Sheldon Neeley released a statement today from City Hall in which he stated, “We remain thankful to Hurley Medical Center for stepping up to provide this additional testing option. Their work is heroic. We are continuing to work with other providers also to further expand testing available to residents of the city of Flint. All of us must do our part to help stop the spread of this deadly virus.
“I pray that all residents of Flint will listen to the advice of our medical community and be vigilant in protecting themselves and the entire community. Please stay home unless it is absolutely necessary, wear a mask if you must leave, and stay strong. Remember, even in isolation, we are in this together.”
EVM Assistant Editor Tom Travis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.