ALABANY, Ga. (WRBL) – Phoebe Health System opened southwest Georgia’s first drive-thru COVID-19 collection facility Monday.
Individuals concerned they may have contracted COVID-19 are instructed to call a hotline for screening before coming to the drive-thru.
On Monday, 14 nurses screened callers over the phone. Those who met testing criteria for the virus were given an appointment time to report to the screening site. “Our nurses handled over 300 calls and scheduled 48 patients for testing today,” said Suresh Lakhanpal, MD, Phoebe Physicians Chief Executive Officer. “By 4:00, we already had 30 people scheduled for tomorrow. We’re planning to extend the hours of operation on Tuesday, so we’ll be able to increase our testing capacity,” said Lakhanpal.
When individuals drive up to the testing site, they are greeted by Phoebe providers who are wearing personal protective equipment approved by the CDC for contact with potential COVID-19 patients. Health providers then take personal information from the individuals who need testing. After that, health provide obtain the appropriate swab from the individual.
Individuals do not have to get out of their cars. “We’re working to make this process as quick and efficient as possible. We’re handing out information sheets to let the patients know how to safely isolate themselves at home while they await test results, and we’ll inform them as soon as we receive those results,” Dr. Lakhanpal said.
Phoebe officials say receiving test results has been slow. So far, Phoebe has tested 185 patients in Albany alone over the last week, of those, officials have received results on just 10 patients. Eight of those patients tested positive, and two tested negative.
As of Monday evening, five confirmed COVID-19 patients were being treated in Phoebe’s main hospital in Albany, while three patients were recovering at home. Sixty patients were being cared for in the hospital as they await results. Meanwhile, 115 are waiting for results at home, including those tested today at the drive-through site.
Officials say those numbers do not reflect Phoebe employees who have been tested because of potential exposure to COVID-19 patients. “There are a limited number of labs that can process these tests. We understand that they’re probably overwhelmed, but we have to find a way to speed up the testing process,” said Scott Steiner, Phoebe Putney Health System Chief Executive Officer.
The drive-through testing site will be open Tuesday from 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. “We wish we could test everyone in the community who is concerned about contracting COVID-19, but we simply don’t have the available supply of test kits to do that. We’re asking people who do not have symptoms not to call our hotline so our nurses have more time to screen people who know they have had contact with coronavirus patients and those at high risk of severe complications from the virus,” Dr. Lakhanpal said.
Common symptoms of COVID-19 are fever, cough and shortness of breath. Most people who contract the virus suffer relatively mild symptoms that do not require hospitalization. Older individuals and those with chronic conditions or compromised immune systems are more likely to develop severe symptoms.