Beaumont ramps up drive-through virus screening

Kim Kozlowski Sarah Rahal
The Detroit News

Royal Oak — Beaumont Health is providing curbside screening for residents who suspect they may be infected with COVID-19,  but it is not for everyone, officials said Monday as they entered the third day of drive-through screening.

"We are dealing with an unprecedented situation," said Dr. Nicholas Gilpin, Beaumont Health’s medical director of Infection Prevention and Epidemiology. "Screening is not necessary for everyone if you are not having symptoms ... We are hoping to keep the flow of our patients coming through our doors as under control as we can."

And that means patients who are seeking curbside screening should be those whose symptoms are beyond mild. 

"Ideally folks are going to speak with their physician and get some pre-screening," said Dr. James Ziadeh, chief of the Department of Emergency Medicine at Beaumont Royal Oak. "We are focusing on the highest-risk individuals; our elderly patients, our patients with immuno-compromised conditions, hypertension, coronary disease ... We have to be careful with the resources we have right now." 

The two physicians spoke during a press conference as Beaumont expanded drive-through screening for the coronavirus after starting a curbside program over the weekend at its hospitals in Royal Oak, Dearborn, Farmington Hills and Troy.  The hospital system added screening sites on Monday at its other locations in Grosse Pointe, Taylor, Trenton and Wayne.

The program began two days after the first coronavirus case was confirmed Thursday in Michigan; the number of such cases has since increased to 54. Across the country, 3,487 cases have been identified, and 68 people have died from the disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Other countries around the globe are also grappling with the virus that has become a global pandemic.

"Overall our goal is to keep our patients, families, staff and community safe," said Nancy Susick, president of Beaumont Royal Oak.

Gilpin said the hospital is dealing with a limited supply of protective equipment such as masks and gowns but said has enough beds.

Beaumont began evaluating patients who drove up in their vehicles on Saturday and Sunday, and has served "hundreds" of people, but officials could not give an exact figure. Of those who were screened and then tested, four tested positive, Gilpin said.

Hours vary at all of the locations but the service is available for most of the day.

In the meantime, Beaumont encouraged residents to call the hospital system's call center number to pose questions about the virus, (800) 592-4784. It's staffed by Beaumont nurses and staff seven days a week.

During the press conference, Beaumont simulated a drive-up screening for a person suspected of having the coronavirus.

Jessica Hamilton, a Beaumont physician's assistant, questioned the passenger about symptoms, health history, age and social isolation in recent days. Then Amena Beslic, director of nursing for the emergency center, took the stand-in patient's blood pressure, temperature and pulse. The passenger was not tested for COVID-19 but was advised by Hamilton to quarantine for 14 days at home and come back if symptoms were to get worse.

"We want to be sure we are limiting the spread of the infection," Hamilton said.

Had the stand-in been a real patient, they could have been tested inside their car with a nasal swab, said Ziadeh. 

The test would either be sent to the state testing lab or a private lab and results could take a few days, officials said.