Test Kits And Supplies Thin At Outer Cape Health Services

By: William F. Galvin

Topics: COVID-19

HARWICH — Outer Cape Health Services will be conducting all its COVID-19 testing from its Wellfleet health clinic, Chief Medical Officer Dr. Andrew Jorgenson said in a teleconference on Monday afternoon. But he expressed frustration with the lack of test kits and protective supplies available to the clinic.

He explained the reason for using only one of OCHS’s three clinics is to prevent the other clinics from having to shut down should COVID-19 be detected and disinfectant measures be required. Jorgenson said about 50 tests have been conducted in the Wellfleet clinic, with two patients from Provincetown testing positive.

“We’ve been turned on our heads,” Dr. Jorgenson said of the need to keep people safe.

Everyone who enters the clinics is examined, and those with a fever greater than 99.6 degrees, or having respiratory symptoms, are sent back to their vehicle and a telephone interview conducted using the six criteria developed by the state Department of Public Health to determine whether additional testing should be conducted or the person needs hospitalization. He said OCHS can arrange for hospital transportation.

The tests provided in Wellfleet are done outside the clinic in a drive-by fashion, Jorgenson said. There is a designated space to treat a patient where staff is in full protective gear.

The Wellfleet clinic provides COVID-19 testing in the afternoon of the days it is open, with the capability to test on Saturday mornings as well. But Jorgenson made it clear OCHS has a shortage of test kits and is very thin on the necessary personal protective equipment. The current system reduces the use of the limited amount of personal protective equipment that is available, he added.

During the interview, Jorgenson said a person had just come in with a bunch of the valued N95 masks used by frontline health officials in the COVID-19 battle. The limited amount of test kits remaining available to OCHS are another issue. He said the kits being used were provided to test other types of viruses, but also test for COVID-19 as well.

“We have enough for testing for a few more days,” he said.

Pat Nadle, chief executive officer of OCHS, made clear her frustration over the lack of equipment. She said agency has filed applications and placed orders with the Federal Emergency Management Agency and other federal and state agencies.

“Hopefully the PPE will start to materialize,” Nadle said, adding the donation of the N95 masks was “a miracle.”

There was some good news. Jorgenson said the timeline for testing conducted by Quest Diagnostics off site has been reduced from six days down to two to three days.

When asked whether the two positive tests were associated with health providers, Jorgenson said they were not health providers from OCHS. While OCHS does not work in conjunction with Cape Cod Healthcare’s tent-based testing at Cape Cod Community College, the agency can refer priority health care workers there for testing, he said.

When asked about community health based on the pressures of the pandemic, Dikke Hanson, director of behavioral health for OCHS, said they have talked with people suffering from anxiety and panic-related issues.

“More and more people are connecting with us,” Hanson said.