Part of the response, both locally and across the United States, is orchestrating how and when people are tested for the novel virus.
Dr. Roxanna Gapstur, president and CEO of WellSpan Health, said in a statement Wednesday that WellSpan “has confirmed its first two patients with presumed positive results for the novel coronavirus that causes the COVID-19 illness. Although these are the first cases, they unfortunately will not be the last.”
Now that the virus is present in the local community, Gapstur said, “we face a pivotal point in our response to COVID-19, and together, we must slow the spread while remaining calm.”
To that end, she said, WellSpan “has taken quick action to develop solutions for COVID-19 assessment and testing.”
Besides operating WellSpan Good Samaritan Hospital at 252 S. 4th St., WellSpan Health also has several primary care, imaging centers, specialists and labs in Lebanon County, as well as hospitals and offices in York and Lancaster counties and points west as far as Franklin County.
WellSpan has set up a website devoted to the contagion at WellSpan.org/Coronavirus. Ryan Coyle, manager of public relations and communications for WellSpan Health, said the site is a “great resource for the overview, as well as a coronavirus assessment tool … that allows individual to run through a self-assessment to determine if they should seek care.”
Individuals who want to seek care remotely can also visit WellSpan.org/OUC for online urgent care, Coyle added.
“Beyond that, we have begun use of temporary outdoor tents at various hospitals and other care locations” in the WellSpan chain, he said.
“These locations allow patients to be screened and possibly tested without ever stepping foot inside the building,” Coyle said, noting that 80 percent of people who contract COVID-19 “will likely be able to be tested and return home to self-isolate and recover from their symptoms. The outside tents limit any potential spread of the disease inside our hospitals and care locations.”
“These tents are not to be utilized for walk-in screening at this time,” Cindy Stauffer, a senior media relations and communications specialist at WellSpan, said in an email. “Patients should call their primary care provider before arriving.”
Physicians screening patients who they later determine need tested for the coronavirus will be directed to a non-hospital outdoor testing location, Stauffer added. In Lebanon County, testing will be handled at WellSpan Cardiology, 775 Norman Drive, from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays and from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekends.
Testing for the virus is being coordinated with the state Department of Health and, “when necessary, with our commercial lab partners,” Coyle said.
Also, Coyle said, “visitation has been limited at all of our hospitals and outpatient locations to protect our staff and patients from any potential spread.”
Stauffer noted that WellSpan is waiving out-of-pocket costs for care or testing related to COVID-19.
According to a statement provided by Stauffer, WellSpan will collect each patient’s coverage information for anyone who has insurance or is covered by Medicare or Medicaid; however, WellSpan “will not bill or collect any deductible, co-insurance, or any other payment for the screening, testing and treatment of COVID-19. WellSpan will also not charge individuals who do not currently have health insurance for testing or treatment of COVID-19 coronavirus.”
“We recognize the need for prompt care for anyone impacted by this crisis and we want to remove any barriers people may face to receiving testing or appropriate care,” Dr. R. Hal Baker, senior vice president of WellSpan Health and co-leader of their COVID-19 incident command response, said in the release.
Kelly T. McCall, public relations director for UPMC Pinnacle in Harrisburg, said UPMC is “collecting specimens for COVID-19 testing based on provider recommendation of a patient meeting testing criteria and input from infectious prevention specialists.”
The UPMC chain of medical centers includes several locations in Lebanon County, including Lebanon Valley Advanced Care Center at 1251 E. Main St., Annville.
“We are preparing to open outpatient specimen collection sites in our area, at an as-yet undetermined date,” McCall added. “We will keep the community informed when those sites are activated.”
However, she said, “it is important to note, that outpatient collection sites will not be not open to the general public.” Patients must have a physician referral, which must be approved by the UPMC infection prevention team, and must have an appointment to have their specimen collected.
UPMC is also limiting access to its facilities, according to a statement at pinnaclehealth.org. That includes limiting visitors and closing some entrances.
According to the statement, patients who are being tested for COVID-19 or who have been diagnosed with the illness will not be allowed to have visitors. Patients who have been admitted for other reasons and outpatients will be limited to one visitor, although all visitors who are sick or below the age of 18 will be barred. Visitors to obstetrics, labor and delivery, and NICU inpatients will be screened prior to entry.
Volunteer activities at all UPMC hospitals and facilities have been temporarily suspended to limit exposure to the virus.
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