Sacred Heart offers COVID-19 drive-through testing

Photos by Jamie Gentry

As confirmed cases of COVID-19 continue to climb in Florida, hospitals have begun drive-through screening of potential patients who do not require hospitalization.

Among healthcare facilities taking this step is Ascension Sacred Heart Hospital in Pensacola which began screenings and drive through testing Monday.

Residents experiencing fever, cough and symptoms of respiratory illness can call 850-746-2684, Ascension’s screening call center. Patients may also contact their primary physician for screening.

Communications manager Mike Burke said the individual will then be screened through questions about their symptoms, travel history and other factors.

Patients will be registered and insurance information collected. According to Ascension, insurance information will be used solely for follow-up purposes. No patients will be turned away and there is no upfront charge, according to a press release from the company.

Patients who meet Centers for Disease Control and Prevention criteria for potential COVID-19 infection will be given drive-through testing for the novel coronavirus. Upon arrival, the driver will be verified as having undergone the screening process. They will then be directed to an area where nurses are waiting with nasal swabs.

Drive through testing

Nurses prepare for drive-through patients at Sacred Heart Pensacola.

Nasal swab samples are collected from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and sent to a state-approved laboratory for analysis. Between the start of screening Monday and Tuesday afternoon, the call line had screened more than 1,000 residents and more than 200 residents were swabbed for testing at the drive-through site.

Burke said it will take a few days or up to a week for test results to be received from state approved testing laboratories. Ascension Medical Group will contact patients with test results. Positive results will be alerted to the Florida Department of Health.

In a prepared statement Monday, Justin Labrato, chief operating officer of Ascension Medical Group Sacred Heart said they are working closely with the state on this matter.

“We are collaborating closely with the Florida Department of Health in Escambia County to ensure that community members experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 can be tested for the virus, while limiting exposure to keep the health and safety of our patients, associates and visitors as top priority,” he said.

Testing is done in an area of the hospital property away from the main campus entrances by a team of healthcare professionals in scrubs, gloves, masks and face shields.

Burke said they expect to continue receiving calls for screening in the coming days.

According to the CDC, symptoms of COVID-19 can range from mild to severe and may appear 2-14 days after being exposed to the virus. Symptoms seen with the infection with COVID-19 are not specific, with cold-like symptoms in mild cases. Symptoms could include a fever, along with cough and  shortness of breath. If someone is elderly or has other medical conditions, such as heart or lung disease, diabetes or cancer, they may get sicker from the virus and develop pneumonia or other lung problems.

Patients are asked to call ahead for screening, not to show up at healthcare facilities without warning due to the potential to expose others to the illness.

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