Testing accessibility raising concerns, doctors respond

South Carolina News

CHARLESTON, SC (WCBD)– Over the past few days, News 2 has received complaints from viewers who said they were having trouble getting tested.

20-year-old Victoria Kindle traveled to Ohio and Pennsylvania last week and returned home on Monday, March 9th. On Thursday, she reported symptoms including chest tightness and fever. Kindle said she contacted all three major hospitals for testing but was turned away, each she said told her conflicting information about what she should do.

Kindle was eventually tested at MUSC but she waited days to receive her results. On Monday night, she said she received a call telling her the test resulted negative but that it was likely a false negative because it was administered incorrectly.

Personal accounts like Kindle’s have created confusion since federal and state leaders have continually said there are enough COVID-19 tests.

“We have been assured that South Carolina has an adequate number of tests that they need right now and will be requesting more tests on a rolling basis,” said U.S. Rep Joe Cunningham in an interview with News 2.

Dr. Kenneth Perry with Trident Medical Center said physicians are still required to follow CDC and DHEC recommendations for testing which means not everyone who requests a test will be tested.

“Clinicians must carefully consider which patients they choose to test through the PHL (public health lab) as demand may outpace supply.”

South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control

According to DHEC, priorities for testing may include:

  • Hospitalized patients who have signs and symptoms compatible with COVID-19
  • Other symptomatic individuals such as, older adults and individuals with chronic medical conditions and/or an immuno-compromised state that may put them at higher risk for poor outcomes (e.g., diabetes, heart disease, receiving immuno-suppressive medications, chronic lung disease, chronic kidney disease).
  • Any persons including healthcare personnel, who had close contact with a suspect or laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 patient within 14 days of symptom onset, or close contact with an individual who has a history of travel from affected geographic areas within 14 days of symptom onset.

Up until last week, Dr. Perry said the decision to test a patient was largely in the SCDHEC’s hands.

All tests conducted in the state had to be sent to Columbia creating a reported slowdown in results but over the weekend SCDHEC agreed to allow private labs to process COVID-19 tests.

“It has a lot to do with just the capabilities of the system. You can imagine if it takes a certain amount of time to get a lab done with the result in hand, it is going to take longer the more of those tests you need to send,” said Perry. “So the more places that we have to send those test the more likely we are to get those results in a timely manner,” he added.

Perry said the added flexibility in testing labs and recommendations will allow healthcare systems to administer more tests.

“I think they will loosen even further,” he said. “What we are hoping to get is that if we can ramp up the ability to test we can know who has it and who is just a walking well,” added Perry

As of Tuesday, a Roper St. Francis Healthcare representative said they had collected 40 COVID-19 samples. 24 had come back negative, 2 positive and 14 pending.

On the same day, an MUSC spokesperson said the number was changing too quickly to provide an exact estimate but could confirm “hundreds” of samples had been collected and were in the testing pipeline.

MUSC representatives also foresee an increase in testing.

“There are numerous regulatory and other logistical processes that must take place to safety escalate the ability to begin moving samples through the now three possible test processing pathways, as opposed to only one (SCDHEC) a couple of days ago. This also means that while hospitals and health systems such as MUSC Health must continue to screen for and prioritize those patients at highest risk for COVID-19 exposure per CDC and DHEC guidance, the community can expect the threshold for testing prioritization to become more inclusive in the coming days and weeks.

Heather Woolwine, Director, MUSC Public Affairs

Local hospital systems have been working for weeks to learn more about the virus as it impacted other parts of the globe. More recently, they have rolled out plans to test and care for patients but updates in testing protocols are expected as the virus continues to spread and direction from DHEC and the CDC changes.

“In less than two weeks, the Charleston area health care community, including MUSC Health, has gone above and beyond to prepare, implement and innovate to help flatten the curve, or slow down the spread, of this virus and resulting disease. From hotlines and telehealth to drive-thru collection sites, these teams are coming together to do all of this in addition to all of the care they must provide for the community in normal circumstances. They are working incalculable hours, day and night, to serve the community and do the absolute best they can with the information they have at any given time; the patience, understanding and respect of the community for their sacrifices and commitment to public health is warranted.”

Heather Woolwine, Director, MUSC Public Affairs

Doctors said wider spread testing will result in more accurate data that can help officials control the spread now and better understand the virus later.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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