Hospitals seek help limiting unnecessary testing, producing medical supplies

Officials Integris Bass Baptist Health Center and St. Mary's Regional Medical Center are asking to public to avoid unnecessary testing for COVID-19. (File Photos)

As the novel coronavirus continues to spread, local health officials are asking the public to help avoid unnecessary testing, and for local companies to help produced needed medical supplies.

Deciding who gets tested

Lori Boyd, St. Mary's Regional Medical Center director of marketing, said the hospital is following CDC guidelines for COVID-19 testing, which state "decisions about testing are at the discretion of state and local health departments and/or individual clinicians."

Boyd said whoever a person sees for their normal health care needs should be the first stop if they believe they are experiencing coronavirus symptoms.

"If individuals have fever and/or cough symptoms consistent with the virus and desire to seek medical attention, we encourage them to call their primary care provider or an urgent care center first," Boyd said. "Their doctor will decide if they meet the criteria that requires that they are tested for COVID-19."

People should not immediately go to the emergency room, she said.

"People who have mild symptoms should stay home and self-quarantine," she said, "leaving the ED (emergency department) more available to patients with more severe symptoms."

Integris Bass Baptist Health Center put out information by social media on Monday indicating testing will be reserved for more severe cases.

"Please know, like every health system in the country, we have limited COVID-19 testing capabilities at this time," the hospital's post said. "Right now, we are reserving our testing kits for those patients who require admission and caregivers who may have been exposed.

"We do not have testing kits at our clinics. Patients who are well enough are being asked to isolate at home until they recover. If their symptoms worsen they are being instructed to call us back or return to the emergency room."

Integris, like other hospitals, is working with Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) to expedite the testing process, but there was no word available Tuesday of when testing may be more readily available.

Not everyone needs to be tested

The CDC also has stressed not everyone who thinks they may have coronavirus needs to be tested.

"Not everyone needs to be tested for COVID-19," according to the CDC website.

"Most people have mild illness and are able to recover at home," according to the CDC. "There is no treatment specifically approved for this virus. Testing results may be helpful to inform decision-making about who you come in contact with."

For more information on CDC testing guidelines, visit https://tinyurl.com/CDC-CV19Tests.

OSDH, on its website, advises any patients who think they may have COVID-19, or have been exposed to the virus, to call ahead and notify medical staff before showing up to a hospital or clinic.

"If you have a medical appointment, call the health care provider and tell them that you have or may have COVID-19," according to OSDH. "This will help the health care provider’s office take steps to keep other people from getting infected or exposed."

OSDH spokesperson Cody McDonell said the state is working to make testing faster and more readily available. But, he said, the shortages currently are at the state and private laboratories conducting the tests, not at hospitals, where the samples are collected.

"Most facilities should have the capability to swab the patient," McDonell said. "It's mostly the materials needed once the swabs get to the lab that are in short supply."

Help needed from local companies

A notice distributed Tuesday by Enid Regional Development Alliance Executive Director Lisa Powell indicated area medical staff are "utilizing their personal protective equipment at record rate due to concerns surrounding the COVID 19 virus."

Both St. Mary's and Integris Bass are looking for local companies that have made or have the capability of making 70% or greater isopropyl alcohol, glycerol 98%, hydrogen peroxide 3%, ethanol 96%, protective masks, gloves or impermeable gowns, and cleaning wipes (alcohol or PDI).

"If you have 3D printers in your business and could potentially make clear plastic face shields, this would be helpful to know as well," according to the ERDA release. "Our Enid hospitals are also able to take any unopened containers of any of the above items."

For more information or to donate, contact Jon Blankenship at Greater Enid Chamber of Commerce, at jon@enidchamber.com or (580) 237-2494.

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