Sentara Healthcare is now offering a new program to bring coronavirus testing to underserved minority populations.
Sentara announced Wednesday it has partnered with local health departments, and the local chapters of the Urban League and NAACP chapters, as well as various community and faith organizations to provide free testing in minority communities.
“Sentara is focused on recognizing and addressing health disparities in the communities we serve,” said Dr. Jordan Asher, chief physician executive with Sentara Healthcare, in a news release. “Minorities are being affected by COVID-19 at a higher rate than the population at large, and we want to reach those residents and help them obtain the services they need where they live.”
The testing can include African-American and Hispanic neighborhoods, LGBTQ populations, homeless individuals and others without readily available access to testing.
In April, the health care organization participated in screening events in 12 cities and counties that are served by Sentara. This included Prince William County, Woodbridge and Manassas in Northern Virginia, Charlottesville and Harrisonburg in the Blue Ridge region, Halifax and Mecklenberg Counties and the City of Danville in Southside Virginia, and Hampton.
More than 1,400 residents were tested and 160 tests came back positive, which resulted in the need for immediate isolation and contact tracing.
Screening in Hampton was done at the Hispanic Resource Center of Coastal Virginia during a food pantry event on May 22. During the event, a double line of cars with parents and children queued around the building where volunteers asked questions about food and testing needs.
During the screenings, Sentara Medical Group nurses performed nasal swabs on those who met the criteria.
“It’s amazing how many people want to help,” said Dana Beckton, chief diversity officer for Sentara Healthcare, in a news release. “All it took was a phone call to the right person with the right connections and in a couple of weeks we have an event.”
The organization also did additional testing in Virginia Beach and Norfolk on Tuesday.
Sentara plans to continue the targeted screen and testing process until it is satisfied that underserved populations are being reached and provided with services.
“Transportation issues and sometimes the language barrier may be among the reasons minority communities aren’t being adequately tested,” said Iris Lundy, director of Health Equity for Sentara, in a news release. “We are building trust and getting the word out through these organizations that it is safe to come out and be tested.”
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