Countrywide shortages in COVID-19 tests and basic equipment, coupled with strict guidelines by the Iowa Department of Public Health, has forced providers to use their discretion when deciding who can get tested, much to the dismay of those who have aired their frustrations online.
Some have even resorted to recording providers with their phones. Two days after Newton Clinic opened its fever and respiratory pop-up clinic in the MercyOne Newton Medical Center parking lot, facility officials released a Facebook post asking passersby to stop taking photos or videos of employees.
The pop-up, tented clinic was created for Newton Clinic patients with a fever or have flu-like or respiratory symptoms, such as a cough or shortness of breath. Mark Thayer, the clinic administrator, said the clinic “will be a place for evaluation, testing and treatment of conditions like strep throat, influenza and COVID-19.”
Those experiencing symptoms are not to come inside the regular clinic entrance.
Newton Clinic will remain open for “non-contagious health conditions, such as diabetes, hypertension, mental health checkups, pain management, medication follow-up visits, non-emergent injuries such as sprains and minor lacerations, OB visits and well-adult and well-child exams.”
Thayer said the clinic’s supply of COVID-19 tests are “adequate” but also acknowledged there are guidelines providers have to follow. Although patients can be tested, there is no specific medicine to prevent or treat the novel coronavirus, according to the World Health Organization.
“There are patients that meet criteria for testing, and we do have — what we think for the time being — adequate supplies, and we are getting supplies in throughout the week for the COVID testing,” Thayer said. “The physicians are reviewing recommendations from the (IDPH). There are specific criteria.”
All hospitalized patients, regardless of age, who have fever and respiratory illness meet that requirement. Adults more than 60 years of age experiencing the same symptoms and have chronic medical conditions like diabetes, heart disease or chronic lung or kidney disease can be tested, too.
COVID-19 testing can also be administered to persons who live in a congregate setting — like long-term care, correctional, treatment or residential facilities — and health care workers, essential services personnel, first responders and critical infrastructure workers experiencing the aforementioned symptoms.
Providers are also no longer required to contact IDPH for testing approval. To conserve public health resources, the State Hygienic Laboratory stressed health care workers to “please ensure that only specimens from patients meeting the testing criteria” are submitted.
According to recent update by the IDPH, more testing is becoming available each day through the State Hygienic Laboratory and private labs. However, Thayer said there is still not an abundance of COVID-19 kits to allow staff to test people without any symptoms.
“At some point that’s going to be available. Our providers are testing people that meet criteria and have active symptoms,” he said, adding the pop-up may receive some upgrades for better efficiency. “ We’re constantly re-evaluating. We had a busy day Monday and Tuesday.”
Newton Clinic is prepared to keep its temporary clinic for another month or so, especially when the tent is replaced with a more heavy-duty material. Thayer said the pop-up clinic staff — consisting of regular providers at the Newton Express Care Clinic, which operates inside the local Hy-Vee — have adjusted well.
“I’m really proud of my staff and those involved,” he said. “They kind of understand that this is our role in the community and the community absolutely needs us. They’re serving that well. It’s not ideal, obviously. In grad school, we didn’t study how to set up tent clinics. Thankfully, we were given the go-ahead.”
This temporary fever and respiratory clinic will be open for scheduled appointments between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. Monday through Friday. Walk-up hours for the weekends are planned 9 a.m. to noon Saturdays and noon to 3 p.m. Sundays, if weather permits.
Patients are asked to call 641-792-2112 to make an appointment.
Contact Christopher Braunschweig at 641-792-3121 ext. 6560 or firstname.lastname@example.org