Mary Rodgers waited 45 minutes for a drive-through COVID-19 test swab at MidState Medical Center but was denied because the doctor who wrote her prescription was not registered within the Hartford HealthCare system.
“We pull up and explain the whole thing. We showed them the prescription. There was all this red tape. Nobody said anything about needing to go to a specific testing site,” Rodgers said.
Rodgers, 73, was experiencing tightness in her chest and shortness of breath. Her partner, Patty Murphy, could not return to her job at an assisted living facility until Rodgers was tested, Murphy said.
Rodgers’ prescription came from a Yale New Haven Hospital practitioner who told her to go to any testing site and call him if there were any questions. Because she lived in Meriden, it seemed like a logical choice. But the staff would not test her and suggested she call the Hartford HealthCare hotline to get screened for a new referral. The number was busy and Rodgers and Murphy got frustrated.
Rodgers later called the 2-1-1 infoline, where a worker recommended Waterbury Hospital. She was tested Thursday, March 19, and was still waiting for the results on Friday.
Flood of calls
Health care professionals and 2-1-1 have been inundated with calls from people asking for information about testing for COVID-19 and the different requirements at each site.
Testing sites outside of Hartford HealthCare’s network do not require the prescribing practitioner be part of a specific network.
“The criteria for testing is very specific,” said Hartford Hospital spokeswoman Tina Varona. “That's why Hartford HealthCare is asking everyone to make sure they connect with HHC doctors or through the COVID Command Center for a referral. If someone has a referral from an MD outside of Hartford HealthCare, the doctor should call the COVID Command Center to get a referral for testing. Patients without one of these doctors’ orders will not receive testing at a Hartford HealthCare drive-through testing site.”
The 2-1-1 Infoline has details on the requirements for each testing site in the state and bases its advice on information from the state Department of Public Health.
Who should be tested?
If an individual has no signs or symptoms of COVID-19, they do not need to be tested, even if they have traveled or think they might have been exposed to COVID-19.
“They should continue to monitor their health as they usually would during cold and flu season,” according to the 211 website. “If a person has symptoms of COVID-19, they do not need to seek medical care unless they normally would for their symptoms. They should stay home until their fever has been gone for 72 hours, and it has been at least 7 days since their symptoms began, and they are feeling better.”
Individuals who believe they may have COVID-19 and are planning to visit their physician or a local hospital, should call prior to going to the medical facility to disclose their symptoms, travel history, and/or contact with an individual who has been confirmed to have COVID-19 — unless they are experiencing a medical emergency.
Meriden Health and Human Services Director Lea Crown said the department cannot refer people for testing, but advises many people to call the Hartford COVID Command Center and provides information on other testing sites.
Crown also cautions the public to be aware of the emergency warning signs.
“We are telling people if they are home and they develop emergency warning signs for COVID-19 get medical attention immediately,” Crown said,
Warning signs include difficulty breathing or shortness of breath, persistent pain or pressure in the chest, confusion or inability to arouse from sleep, bluish lips or face.
Who is a priority for testing?
According to 2-1-1, doctors are using guidance provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to help determine who should be prioritized for testing.
The CDC indicates that priorities for testing may include:
1.Hospitalized patients who have signs and symptoms compatible with COVID-19 in order to inform decisions related to infection control.
2.Other symptomatic individuals such as adults 65 and older and individuals with chronic medical conditions and/or an immunocompromised state that may put them at higher risk for poor outcomes (e.g., diabetes, heart disease, receiving immunosuppressive medications, chronic lung disease, chronic kidney disease).
3.Any persons including healthcare personnel, who within 14 days of symptom onset had close contact with a suspected or laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 patient, or who have a history of travel from affected geographic areas within 14 days of their symptom onset.
How and where is someone tested?
Individuals who have testing ordered for them, need to be seen to have a specimen collected (usually a throat and nose swab). Not all doctors’ offices are equipped yet to do the specimen collection. But an individual's doctor can determine whether an individual should be tested and where the testing should be conducted. Doctors who aren't doing specimen collections in their office may arrange for the collection to happen at a hospital facility or at a drive-through collection facility.
Area testing sites
Bristol Hospital: Specimen collection site set up in parking lot adjacent to 145 Queen St., Bristol. Individuals must have a lab order from their provider to be swabbed at the collection site. Individuals should bring the lab order, photo ID, and insurance card with them. The site is open 7 days a week, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. but individuals should call the Bristol Health Hotline at 860-261-6855 in advance to ensure it is open. (NOTE: When calling this number, press option 3 for testing information between the hours of 8 a.m. and 4 p.m.; Pressing option 1 will route you to 2-1-1 for general information and when the site is not open, calls also route to 2-1-1 after hours).
Waterbury Hospital: Drive-through specimen collection station open at 64 Robbins St., Waterbury. Individuals must have a lab order from their provider to be sampled at the at the station. The station will be open seven days a week, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Hartford HealthCare – Hartford: Individuals must have a referral from a doctor in the Hartford HealthCare Medical Group. Specimen collection site is located at the Education and Resource Center, 560 Hudson St., Hartford and is open 10 a.m. - 4 p.m., seven days a week.
MidState Medical Center: Drive-through specimen collection station open at 435 Lewis Ave., Meriden, across from the main entrance. To be tested, patients must have a referral from a provider through Hartford HealthCare Medical Group. Hours of operation: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. seven days a week.
Saint Mary's Hospital: Drive-through specimen collection station open at 56 Franklin St., Waterbury. The site is open 9 a.m.to 3 p.m., seven days a week. The clinic may be accessed in the lower level of the visitor’s garage on Cole Street in Waterbury.Those seeking a screening must have a physician’s order and proper identification to utilize the drive-up clinic. The physician’s order can be a paper copy or submitted electronically by the physician.
Yale New Haven Hospital: Yale is providing testing, but the site address is not public information. An individual's doctor can submit the lab order for testing to Yale electronically or via fax. Once the order is received, the patient will receive a call to schedule an appointment. Individuals without a doctor can call the hotline at 833-275-9644.
Saint Francis Hospital: Drive-through specimen collection station open at 1000 Asylum St., Hartford. The site is open 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. seven days a week. The drive-though is directly in front of the Gengras Building on the Saint Francis Hospital campus.
Once a swab is are collected from an individual, it is sent to a lab to have the test run. However, hospitals and other providers are working on getting the supplies needed to run tests in their own facilities instead of sending them to a lab. Right now, the state lab is running the tests as well as LabCorps and Quest Diagnostics. All individuals being tested by these facilities must be referred by a physician in advance. The test can take 1-3 days depending on the lab and the volume of tests that are pending. No one should arrive at any of the lab facilities requesting to be tested nor should individuals contact the labs asking for testing.
Who pays for testing?
On March 10, Gov. Ned Lamont stated that his administration is working with health insurance carriers in Connecticut to cover the costs of COVID-19 testing. Access Health has extended its enrollment for those who may have recently lost their insurance coverage.