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Union will be used for COVID-19 testing

By Steve Krause | March 21, 2020

The North Shore Medical Center’s Union Campus in Lynn will serve as a testing station for those concerned about whether they’ve contracted the COVID-19 virus.

North Shore Medical Center spokesman Matthew Roy said that drive-through testing tents will be set up adjacent to the urgent care center — formerly the Union emergency room.

“We are continually evaluating the needs of our patients and the best facilities to meet those needs,” Roy said late Thursday afternoon. “This site will serve patients of the North Shore Physicians Group and other Partners Healthcare-affiliated primary care practices.”

To access testing, patients must be phone-screened, pre-registered and scheduled through their primary care physicians, Roy said. Patients will remain in their cars while they are tested. 

Screening is conducted by trained staff in proper protective gear and begins with a rapid flu test. If flu is ruled out, staff members will collect a sample using a nasal swab, which is then secured and sent to a state-approved laboratory for COVID-19 processing. 

A second small tent has been set up to provide shelter for staff who will be conducting the screenings and sample processings, Roy said. Patients approved for testing must be symptomatic and meet at least one additional criteria, such as recent travel to countries at high risk of COVID-19, or close contact with a confirmed COVID-19 patient.

The urgent care facility will remain open to walk-in patients from 9 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. However, Roy said, the facility is not providing COVID-19 testing, Roy said. That has to come via a patient’s primary care physician.

COVID-19 testing must be scheduled through a patient’s primary care physician.

Roy said the hospital has also amped up its efforts to protect staff, especially those on the front lines of treating the virus.

Protecting the health and safety of our frontline staff is paramount and we are taking all necessary steps to ensure that they are equipped to safely respond to the COVID-19 pandemic,” Roy said. “These measures include training and education on best treatment practices and emergency protocols, use of personal protective equipment to guard against the spread of the virus, and the implementation of a strict visitor policy at all of our facilities that also includes the screening of patients and visitors at entrances.”

Even some hospital staff members whose jobs enable them to work from home have been asked to do so for the next 30 days, Roy said.
“In addition, we have postponed all non-essential patient appointments, surgeries and procedures to preserve resources and protect our staff and community,” he said. “We also are beginning to use virtual visits to maintain continuity of appropriate clinical care.”

Roy said that the hospital is equipped and ready for what could possibly be an onslaught of patients.

“NSMC Salem Hospital remains equipped and ready to care for our patients,” Roy said. “(It) has taken proactive steps to handle a surge of coronavirus patients, including the postponing nonessential surgeries, appointments and procedures to create capacity within the hospital, managing resources carefully and making adjustments as needed,” he said.

Steve Krause can be reached at skrause@itemlive.com.