WATERVILLE — Northern Light Inland Hospital is moving its core testing for coronavirus to a drive-up test site at the Faith Evangelical Free Church parking lot on Friday.

The testing, which will be offered in the church lot off Kennedy Memorial Drive between noon and 3 p.m., aims to keep most testing out of the Inland Hospital itself while protecting patients and staff, according to hospital spokeswoman Sara Barry.

“Drive-Up Testing sites save time by preserving patient care space for those who need it most, helps protect staff at our ambulatory sites and consolidates our use of precious PPE (personal protective equipment) and supplies,” Barry said. “We are establishing a central Screening Hotline (triage phone number) to determine if patients are eligible for testing and then will instruct them to go to the most convenient testing location.”

A worker from Inland Hospital prepares the entrance to a drive-up coronavirus testing site Thursday in the parking lot adjacent to Faith Evangelical Free Church on Kennedy Memorial Drive in Waterville. Morning Sentinel photo by Michael G. Seamans

Barry said the national supply of laboratory materials is critically low, reducing the ability to perform testing for COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus. In response, the Maine State CDC has shared new, stricter guidelines for testing patients, Barry noted.

Barry said Inland will prioritize testing according to CDC guidelines for high-risk individuals to include:
• hospitalized patients who are high-risk
• healthcare workers and first responders
• people living in closed settings like nursing homes

“The community needs to understand that only people with referrals will be seen,” Barry said of the new drive-up testing site. “To get a referral you must have symptoms and have called our Screening Hotline at 844-489-1822. Please note that call volume is expected to be high and wait time to speak with a nurse could be long.”

Hours for the Inland testing site are noon to 3 p.m. on Saturday, March 21, and noon to 3 p.m. on Sunday, March 22.

In addition, Northern Light Health is also establishing a drive-up test site in Somerset County, at Northern Light Sebasticook Hospital in Pittsfield, starting Monday.

Barry said the hospital couldn’t disclose how many test kits it has because officials are still assessing their quantity, but said “we are working with the Maine CDC to obtain more tests so we can meet the community need to test those who have symptoms and meet the CDC testing requirements.”

Workers from Inland Hospital prepare a drive-up coronavirus testing site Thursday in the parking lot adjacent to Faith Evangelical Free Church on Kennedy Memorial Drive in Waterville. Morning Sentinel photo by Michael G. Seamans

Testing supplies are limited and the hospital needs to make sure it has enough on hand for patients who need it most, she said. Hospital staff are screened for temperature and any symptoms, she said.

“As much as we would like to, we cannot test on demand,” Barry said. “Testing is available only with an order by a health care professional for people who have been screened for symptoms and risk.”

Meanwhile, at MaineGeneral Medical Center, officials on Tuesday set up tents outside the emergency departments at the Waterville and Augusta locations for people to be tested or screened prior to being admitted there.

“We have been doing medical screenings at the EDs and based on the screening will test the patient if that patient meets the screening criteria,” said Joy McKenna, a spokeswoman for MaineGeneral. She added that the criteria changes often and would be updated on their website, mainegeneral.org.

McKenna declined to say how many tests the hospital system has administered or how many it needed, but said test kits “are in limited supply.”

“We must appropriately limit testing based on the best available CDC guidelines. Again, these guidelines change often given the shortage of testing materials. This is a national problem,” McKenna said.

She said that MaineGeneral staff have been tested “as appropriate.”

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