More hospitals set up drive-through testing for COVID-19, but Advocate Aurora suspends sites
Edward-Elmhurst Health and Northwestern Medicine have launched drive-through testing for the coronavirus, but another hospital system has suspended the new model as a result of a national shortage of COVID-19 test kits.
Edward-Elmhurst Health on Friday began operating a testing site in the parking lot of its Health Corporate Center in Warrenville. Medical workers took nasal swabs from 22 patients using commercial testing, said Dr. Michelle Meziere, an Elmhurst Hospital emergency department physician and chairwoman of an emergency preparedness committee.
"Through the testing site, our screeners have done a very good job of making sure that the people coming through the drive-through were appropriate," she said.
But Advocate Aurora Health announced it was halting COVID-19 testing sites and postponing the opening of new ones. Advocate cited new protocols shared by state officials and hospital associations in Illinois and Wisconsin meant to conserve tests for those in critical need.
"As a health care provider and a member of our communities, we have a responsibility to prioritize testing for the most vulnerable and save lives by taking decisive action to help stop the spread of COVID-19," the statement read.
Edward-Elmhurst is following testing criteria recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Illinois Department of Public Health. Patients have to receive referrals from Edward-Elmhurst physicians before driving up to the testing site in the parking lot of the Health Corporate Center in Warrenville.
"At this point, we have decided that we are not testing anyone who is asymptomatic," Meziere said. "There are lot of people out there who know they have had an exposure, but they are not symptomatic."
Edward Hospital is treating two COVID-19 patients, and Elmhurst Hospital is treating four.
Providers should still direct patients with severe symptoms to the emergency department. Those with mild symptoms should quarantine at home. The drive-through is targeting another group of people who may be older or have multiple medical problems.
"The drive-through is kind of for the patients in the middle who are not sick enough to be hospitalized, but maybe have some risk factors that tell us that we need to test them," Meziere said.
Nurses, respiratory therapists, nurse practitioners and physician assistants are administering the tests. For the first three days of operation, they're testing only up to 25 patients a day from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. because of limited testing availability, and then they'll reevaluate those restrictions. It takes about five business days to get back results.
"Hopefully as supplies become more available to do the testing, we'll be able to offer it to more patients," Meziere said.
Many Northwestern Medicine hospitals also have set up temporary tent-like structures near emergency departments to quickly and safely screen patients before entering the ER. A second structure -- not meant for walk-ups or the general public -- handles remote COVID-19 testing for patients with an authorization from their doctor.
In Winfield, Northwestern Medicine Central DuPage Hospital, for instance, has set up a screening area in the ambulance bay. The testing tent has been installed in the parking lot behind the Snyder Building at 27W353 Jewell Road.
Anyone who is concerned they may have the coronavirus should call their physician's office before visiting to prevent the spread of COVID-19. To answer patient questions, Northwestern Medicine has a hotline available for people to call: (312) 47-COVID.