With the evolving COVID-19 viral pandemic, many people have concerns about their health, or the health of loved ones and are asking lots of questions. Should I be tested for COVID-19? Should I stay home and self-quarantine? What is the process for testing? Where can I be tested? What are the current criteria for testing?
Curry Health Network has established a 24/7 COVID-19 Nurse Triage Line to help answer those questions, as well as explaining their current practices and processes.
24/7 COVID-19 NURSE TRIAGE LINE
Curry Health Network has established a 24/7 COVID-19 Nurse Triage Line to help answer these questions. Community members are invited to call 541-247-3090.
WHERE IS COVID-19 SPECIMEN COLLECTION, AND WHAT IS THE PROCESS?
Patients with the flu-like symptoms of COVID-19 such as fever, cough, or shortness of breath will be directed to the Emergency Department at Curry General Hospital in Gold Beach where they will be seen in the Triage Room.
The patient will receive a medical screening examination by the emergency physician, and this facility’s laboratory can perform a rapid test to rule out influenza as a potential cause. The emergency physician then will follow guidelines established by the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) to determine if the patient should be tested for COVID-19.
If so, specimens will be collected and sent to an external laboratory for testing as long as collection supplies are available.
Current OHA guidelines for hospitals recommend the patient may have specimens collected for COVID-19 testing if the patient tests negative for influenza and:
• the patient has a fever or respiratory symptoms (cough, shortness of breath) AND has been in contact with a confirmed COVID-19 patient in the 14 days before symptom, or
• the patient has fever AND respiratory symptoms with travel to areas with widespread COVID-19 transmission in the 14 days before symptom onset, or
• the patient has a fever with severe acute lower respiratory illness (e.g. pneumonia, ARDS) requiring hospitalization and without an alternative explanatory diagnosis (like influenza)
WHY IS THIS ONLY BEING OFFERED AT CURRY GENERAL HOSPITAL?
There are several reasons why this is being offered only at CGH.
• To reduce the number of staff and other patients being exposed to potential COVID-19 positive patients — remember, safety is the number one goal.
• Current OHA guidelines recommend ruling out influenza before COVID-19 testing. Recent changes to regulations now require that all influenza testing be done under a containment biological hood that Curry Medical Center’s laboratory does not have, so influenza specimens must be couriered to and from Curry General Hospital for testing. This can result in a 4 to 6-hour turnaround time during normal hours, and longer during hours without courier service — time that we do not want a potential COVID-19-positive patient to spend in the very busy Brookings emergency department at Curry Medical Center, which is also near to other clinic staff and patients.
• To expedite the process for our patient in the safest manner possible.
• To maintain the highest level of safety for the most people possible.
• To provide a safer environment for patients who need to see a primary care provider or specialist for conditions unrelated to influenza or COVID-19.
• To manage resource constraints and conservation of COVID-19 collection supplies to ensure that patients needing the tests are receiving the appropriate level of care.
WHY CAN’T THIS BE DONE AT AN ALTERNATE SITE, OR FROM A VEHICLE?
• Currently, most rapid alternate screening locations or “drive-through” screening locations have been established in urban areas and manned by Public Health officials, nurses, and physicians. Curry County does not have the resources in its Public Health agency to establish an alternate care location. Although it is not generally recommended to bring people into an emergency department, at Curry Health Network and given current OHA guidelines, the hospital emergency department is the safest and most efficient facility and department that currently has the resources and ability to care for and screen these patients.
• With current guidelines and current collection and processing requirements, COVID-19 specimens must be handled in such a way that it is kept at a frozen temperature until delivered to the external testing laboratory. Our courier services would not be able to keep the specimens at the required temperature during transport between facilities. Therefore, COVID-19 specimens must be collected at the hospital and managed by the hospital laboratory that can ensure the needed handling and temperature control.
Curry Health Network would like to reiterate that the decisions made related to the provision of care is to maintain the highest level of safety for the most people possible while at the same time serving the needs of the community.