Butler County hospitals and coronavirus testing: What’s the latest?

Ohio on Wednesday ordered hospitals to stop sending coronavirus tests to private labs at a time when Butler County hospitals are at varied stages when it comes to their testing capacities.

Premier Health, the parent company of Middletown’s Atrium Medical Center, has been working with the Ohio Department of Health from the beginning of the pandemic on all of its internal processes, according to spokeswoman Jennifer Burcham.

“For the past two weeks, we have been sending tests to ODH for review,” Burcham said. “In the order that came out this week, it also calls for hospitals to develop a plan that would allow for internal processing of tests.”

Premier Health announced that capability Friday in conjunction with CompuNet Clinical Laboratories when it launched a rapid test for hospitalized patients for the novel coronavirus.

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Local test access is expected to shorten turnaround times for test results to 24 to 48 hours for hospitalized patients.

“We’re going to be partnering with local hospital systems in those efforts and make sure we’re following the governor’s recommendations on who should get the more rapid testing on hospitalized patients,” Dr. Keith Bricking, president of Atrium Medical Center.

“I think that as time goes on and as we get more and more patients in the community that are presenting to local hospitals, that rapid testing is really going to be critical for us to be able to make health care decisions immediately and isolate these patients.”

Dr. Ronald Chiu, medical director of CompuNet Clinical Laboratories, called the testing “a game changer.”

“By testing at CompuNet’s core lab, COVID-19 test results will be delivered sooner to providers within the hospital setting, allowing for better and efficient triage of patients, early medical intervention, as well as better allocation of resources, including personal protective equipment.”

Testing will initially be limited based on the Ohio Department of Health Director’s Order issued on April 1, which prioritizes patients who receive the COVID-19 testing. Hospitalized patients and symptomatic health care workers will be the first group to receive this test.

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UC Health, which operates West Chester Hospital, announced last Monday it started in-house testing for COVID-19 at the UC Health Precision Medicine Laboratory located at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center.

In-house testing will initially be limited to inpatients within UC Health hospitals, including the University of Cincinnati Medical Center, West Chester Hospital and Daniel Drake Center for Post-Acute Care. The test must be ordered by a physician providing care for a patient at one of these facilities.

UC Health will continue to use outside laboratories for other COVID-19 test specimens. The anticipated turnaround time for test results is between one and three days.

“We are glad to be able to start in-house testing for our patients in order to improve time from test to results,” said Dr. George Smulian, Ward E. Bullock Professor of Infectious Diseases and director of the Division of Infectious Diseases in the Department of Internal Medicine at the UC College of Medicine and a UC Health physician. ”Expedited access to results also allows us to conserve our personal protective equipment by allowing us to use these resources when people truly need it.”

A new gift to UC Health from a private foundation announced Thursday will help expand the capacity and speed of testing for COVID-19 across the system.

Through the University of Cincinnati Foundation, an anonymous donor has funded the purchase of two pieces of equipment for the UC Health Precision Medicine Laboratory, which can be put to immediate use in accelerating in-house testing for the novel coronavirus responsible for the global pandemic, officials said.

Two machines and equipment valued at $170,000, as well as test kits for an additional $30,000, have been purchased and are en route to arrive at UC Medical Center within the next two weeks.

The gift allowed for the purchase of the GenMark ePlex and the KingFisher extraction instruments and associated test kits for the UC Health Lab, which recently began testing for COVID-19.

UC Health expects to more than quadruple the number of COVID-19 tests that it can process in one day, officials said.

Also, one of the machines will give UC Health the ability to run a rapid test for COVID-19 that will take about 90 minutes. It can be used for other testing purposes in the future, such as those for determining cancer treatment.

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Kettering Health Network is collecting specimens from inpatients at Fort Hamilton Hospital as well as other hospitals in Kettering Health Network and only those that meet the Centers for Disease Control requirements, according to spoksewoman Elizabeth Long.

It has been sending specimens to independent labs as well as the Ohio Department of Health. It is not collecting specimens from patients outside of its hospitals, Long said.

With the state’s order, Kettering Health has reached out to hospitals able to test samples and has been sending samples to the Ohio Department of Health, she said.

The Christ Hospital Health Network spokesman Bo McMillan said testing at that health system’s hospitals, including one in Liberty Twp., is limited to patients in the hospital due to a lack of testing supplies in the region.

“As far as services at our Liberty side go, we’ve temporarily closed the birthing center and consolidated all births to our main campus in Mt. Auburn,” McMillan said.

At TriHealth’s McCullough-Hyde Memorial and Bethesda Butler hospitals, testing has been “steady, but orderly and calm,” according to Mike Everett, president of both hospitals.

“We’re using a variety of labs – including the state and private options – to expediate the number of tests we have outstanding,” Everett said. “We’re doing well with supplies, including the number of test kits available” at both hospitals.

Everett said he commends public officials in Butler County for their “exceptional job” of coordinating to prepare for the pandemic.” “We have been in regular communication with local first responders, government officials and the county health department, and we believe we are well prepared to meet the needs of our community in the weeks ahead,” he said.

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How to take precautions

  • Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds; dry hands with a clean towel or air dry hands.
  • Use alcohol-based hand sanitizer when soap and water are unavailable.
  • Cover your mouth with a tissue or sleeve when sneezing or coughing.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Avoid contact with people who are sick.
  • Clean "high-touch" surfaces daily. These include counters, tabletops, doorknobs, light switches, bathroom fixtures, toilets, phones, keyboards, desks, and tablets.

Source: Ohio Department of Health

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