COMMUNITY IMPACT 2020
COVID-19 screening lab makes testing safe and convenient “Initially, there was very little known about COVID-19, and it scared a lot of people. Those who stepped up were willing to stay out in the elements, risk contracting the virus, and also self-quarantine away from their own family.”
-WendyWard, BSN, RN, Great Plains Health director of patient safety and risk management
On March 17, shortly after the first case of COVID-19 was confirmed in Lincoln County, the Great Plains Health drive- through screening lab opened its doors. “At first, there were a lot of questions, a lot of unknowns,” said Barb Petersen, Great Plains Health chief quality officer. “We determined right away that bringing patients with COVID-19 symptoms into the emergency room would create a lot of problems—to avoid contamination, it would take three hours to clear a room and have it safely ready for the next patient. We would have become bogged down very quickly, and not been able to serve our community in a timely and safe manner,” explained Petersen. Dr. Eduardo Freitas, Great Plains Health infectious disease specialist, and Jenny Lantis, RN, Great Plains Health infectious disease coordinator, quickly determined the testing needed to be done outdoors. Initially, the screening lab was stationed at the North Platte Health Pavilion, with Dr. Jeff Brittan, Midlands Family Medicine family practice physician, helping to establish the location. The North Platte Fire Department volunteered a hazmat truck.
This station worked well for several months, until the summer weather brought high temperatures and new challenges. The location then changed to the Great Plains Health parking lot, and instead of a hazmat truck, the hospital rented a camping trailer. The trailer provided air conditioning for those working at the site, and a larger area for parking. Recently, the screening lab has found a new location just off I-80 at the former Whiskey Creek location. “As we move into the winter months, the new location will better serve both the patients and staff,” said Petersen. The mobile lab averages 80 to 100 tests daily. On their busiest day, they ran over 200 tests. In an effort to better serve the elderly, the screening lab would visit nursing homes. “While elective surgeries were suspended, we were able to take the testing mobile and swab patients in their nursing homes,” said Petersen, “making it more comfortable for the residents and alleviating the burden of the nursing home staff to get the patient to the screening lab.”
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