As Atwood COVID testing concludes, Michigan Health Specialists and others continue

By Tom Travis

The first location to offer COVID-19 testing in the State of Michigan, Michigan Health Specialists (MHS), has now conducted 200 COVID-19 tests since it began testing March 12.

Of the 200 tests performed since then, 50 had positive results and 2 patients have died.

MHS and several other locations in Genesee County continue testing as the parking lot testing setup at Atwood Stadium, which began April 14, closed May 4.

Mobile COVID-19 testing at Atwood was sponsored by the State of Michigan partnering with Hurley Medical Center and Kettering University,  Laura Jasso, Hurley Medical Center’s administrator of marketing and public relations, Thursday summarized Hurley’s role in the Atwood Stadium testing site.

She stated Hurley partnered with the state and Kettering until there were other community testing sites up and running. Jasso said Hurley assisted in training for the other sites. The Atwood site was never intended to be a long-term testing site, but rather  an initial site until other sites were in place, Jasso stated.

In an interview with East Village Magazine, one of the 10 physicians affiliated with MHS, Dr. Seif Saeed, said MHS started the COVID-19 testing so early in Michigan because the company operates within a low-income area and with four locations in Genesee County, it made sense to begin offering the test to the community it serves.

“We want to make sure patients are being taken care of. We want to level the field for African-Americans in the area. We want to make sure they get the testing that they need. So we felt that it is our responsibility to do this,” he said.

How to make an appointment for COVID-19 testing at MHS

Those who need testing should call 810.235.2004 ext 3025. They will be connected with an MHS doctor for a phone screening. Testing is conducted from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and both mobile (in your car) or in one of MHS’s offices. When you call in for a phone screening they attempt to schedule a test that same day. MHS COVID-19 tests are free to the public.

Brandon Wright, Certified Medial Assistant (CMA) dressed in PPE gown and mask carries a speciman from a COVID-19 test conducted in the parking lot. (Photo by Tom Travis)

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) website states that COVID-19 symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure to the virus and include cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing or at least two of the following: fever, chills, repeated shaking with chills, muscle pain, headache, sore throat and new loss of taste or smell. The CDC website further states this list is not all inclusive and encourages all to consult their medical provider for any other symptoms that are severe or concerning to them

Saeed said MHS does not get direct assistance or help from any branch of  government. He said, “MHS buys all the tests and PPE [Personal Protective Equipment]  materials ourselves. But again, it is our responsibility (as medical professionals).” He clarified the government pays for the testing at Quest Labs but the tests and PPE materials are purchased by MHS.

Saeed said MHS uses two COVID-19 tests. One is the initial test when a patient initially comes in exhibiting the symptoms of COVID-19. If a patient is still exhibiting the symptoms after two weeks, they can be tested again with a different test, a serology test. The serology test is a blood test to see if there are antibodies in a person’s system.

Dr. Seif Saeed, who has worked with MHS for 20 years, spoke to EVM in the lobby where MHS receives patients for COVID-19 testing. (Photo by Tom Travis)

The turnaround for test results is 48-72 hours and the serology test results are over night, Saeed said.

MHS anticipates testing will continue through the end of the year, Saeed said. “I believes the testing will be key for people going back to work and it will help people feel comfortable going back out into society. Until we see that antibodies means immunity we will continue to do the testing. We are waiting for science to catch up with what we are doing.”

Pointing to a PPE gown hanging on a hook in the wall, Saeed said Hurley Hospital gave MHS ten PPE outfits. He said they wash the PPE each night and use them again if they are washed in hot water. MHS also uses ultra-violet light to sanitize the PPE and N-95 masks.

Like all front-line medical facilities, MHS has had some employees contract COVID-19. Saeed pointed out that the MHS employees were paid while they isolated and recovered at home. The employees who had COVID-19 have recuperated and returned to work. Saeed noted one patient was in need of oxygen so they arranged for oxygen tanks to be sent weekly to the employee’s home while she recovered.  Saeed said that MHS’s criteria for an employee to return to work after a Covid-19 diagnosis is that they have not had symptoms for three days.

The MHS website describes its services as, “a primary care practice that sees patients from newborns to grandparents. Its team of board certified doctors, physician assistants and nurse practitioners, and support staff are committed to providing you with an excellent experience.

“Our providers serve patients of Genesee and Lapeer Counties. MHS treats individuals after hospital discharges and admission to the emergency room. The practice sees newborns who are only a few days old, adults with routine and complex needs, and elderly patients with a range of medical conditions. MHS providers study, diagnose, and treat illnesses and health conditions ranging from minor aches and pains to complex diseases.

“MHS provides patients with access to a comprehensive medical services including laboratory testing, X-Rays, EKG, pulmonary function testing, ultrasound, and bone density testing.

“MHS operates four clinics throughout Genesee County. Additionally, the founding partners of MHS oversee the residency program at Hurley Health Center and hospitalist programs at McLaren Flint and Hurley.”

Reflecting on how the pandemic and COVID-19 will effect us

“This pandemic is going to change us like 9-11 changed us,” Saeed predicted.  For example, now when we fly we have to take off our shoes and there are things we can’t take with us on the plane and airport security has changed. It’s been almost 20 years since all those changes happened, he noted, and  “that has not changed to this day.”

Another MHS physician, Dr. Khalid Ahmed, said he anticipates for the future we will continue to do some social distancing. He predicted we will not have a vaccine and treatment for two or three years. Until then, he suggested, we’ll have to continue to experience some level of social distancing. He also noted that we will be cleaner, too, from all the washing and sanitizing our hands, wearing masks, and taking greater precautions.

MHS Physician Dr. Khalid Ahmed spoke to EVM in the lobby where MHS receives patients for Covid-19 testing. (Photo by Tom Travis)

Both Ahmed and Saeed said they believe tele-medicine will become more common.  Some medical providers offer using a smart phone to video conference with your doctor or medical professional. They both believe that will soon become the norm for medical practice.

COVID-19 testing sites around Genesee County

The Genesee County Health Department (GCHD) website lists the locations for Covid-19 testing in Genesee County.

[pdf-embedder url=”https://www.eastvillagemagazine.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/GCHD-testing-sites.pdf” title=”GCHD testing sites”]

EVM Assistant Editor Tom Travis can be reached at tomntravis@gmail.com.

Author: Tom Travis

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