Mobile van offers buffer from COVID-19

Hospital in Bel Air keeps patients in cars
Posted at 5:14 PM, Mar 13, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-13 18:20:36-04

BEL AIR, Md. — One of the last things any hospital would want during a pandemic is potentially-infected people driving up to its emergency room and putting others at risk, which is why the Upper Chesapeake Medical Center is now positioning a mobile operations van in its parking lot.

"The purpose overall is to keep people that suspect they may have been exposed from ever having to step foot into a healthcare facility until they absolutely need to,” said Upper Chesapeake Health Vice President of Population Health Colin Ward. “So call ahead to your primary care provider. They can provide a screening over the phone or, in some cases, they're using HIPAA-compliant video conferencing, and they can determine where you go and if you need a test, you can come here and not have to get out of your car and step into a facility to have that specimen collected."

In its first two hours today, nurses swabbed a dozen patients---all with lab orders from their doctors and an appointment.

Those who show up without them will be turned away.

"If they're too high risk, there is a process for the patient to have a practice call ahead to emergency department and someone can meet them there,” said Ward. “If they're too low risk, we probably don't want to use supplies that are really in high demand so we have to find just that right patient, right candidate so we're going to run this testing operation for four hours, three days a week."

The mobile operation is a pilot for the University of Maryland Medical System, and there's no guarantee it will be sustainable, but doctors throughout the area are supporting it with the well-being of their existing patients and staff in mind.

"Some of these practices have actually lent us some supplies, because they know that the swabs to collect the specimens are in demand so they're saying, 'Hey. This benefits us by not having a patient some to the practice and it's good for the patient to know so we're going to donate these supplies to you to keep this in operation as long as you can,’ said Ward. “and we're going to have to evaluate almost on a daily basis whether or not we can run the operation the next day and it's really determinant on the supply availability."