As testing for the coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to grow, Sentara Healthcare has closed its drive-thru screening location to prepare for the opening of its own testing facility.
Sentara announced Tuesday it is planning to launch in-house testing for Hampton Roads at Sentara Norfolk General Hospital in the next week.
Until then, testing results are still dependent on private laboratories, such as LabCorp and Quest Diagnostics.
However, as a result of the large number of tests being processed at those labs, Sentara has shut down its drive-thru screening locations until further notice.
Sentara had been operating drive-thru screening locations at Sentara CarePlex Hospital in Hampton, Military Circle in Norfolk, Sentara Princess Anne Hospital in Virginia Beach and the Sentara Williamsburg Regional Medical Center. The screening operations were operating as long as supplies lasted and once had to pause operations due to a shortage.
Sentara said the decision to suspend its drive-thru screening was made due to the delay in communicating and receiving test results.
The news comes after the Sentara learned Friday that it could take 10 days or more for private labs to complete and communicate test results to patients.
As of Friday, Sentara had performed approximately 3,000 tests across all of its facilities, said Eric Young, director of laboratory services for Sentara Healthcare, and most of those tests were being sent to private laboratories.
Only a small percentage are being sent to the state lab for testing because the Virginia Department of Health requires patients tested to meet certain criteria, such as travel history and particular symptoms.
On Friday, Rachel Carr, spokeswoman for Quest Diagnostics, said the lab was processing 25,000 tests per day at each of its 12 locations and expects that number to continue increasing.
Opening its own testing facility would help create a faster turnaround time for results, said Dale Gauding, spokesman for Sentara Healthcare, on Friday. He added that opening the testing lab at Sentara Norfolk General Hospital was the best option because it had a more robust laboratory than other locations.
“All hospitals have labs, but we are regionalizing some of those services,” he said.
In the meantime, the Sentara is asking patients to practice telehealth as much as possible. While it has been offering telehealth options to patients since 2018, efforts to use technology, such as video visits, have increased.
Since March 17, Sentara has completed more than 10,500 telehealth appointments and there are currently more than 1,200 health care providers from Sentara Medical Group that are treating patients virtually in an attempt to keep them healthy while remaining at home.
Before March there was an average of about 20 telehealth appointments performed each day — now the average daily number is 2,000 and many of these visits are patients related to the coronavirus.
For more information, visit Sentara Healthcare online.