Hospital launches drive-thru testing

Rebecca Neipp

News Review Staff Writer

Hospital launches</p><p>drive-thru testingRidgecrest Regional Hospital is now allowing patients to make appointments for drive-through testing for coronavirus (COVID-19).

“The drive-thru process has been carefully designed to keep our patients and medical staff safe,” said Michelle Whalley, Clinic Administrator for the Rural Health Clinic. “Patients remain in their cars for the entire process and are only met up close by a doctor in full protective gear to minimize any potential exposure to infection.”

Kern County Public Health Department’s latest report, at press time, said that 28 residents and 1 visitor have tested positively for COVID-19. The report also shows that results are still pending for 370 of 952 samples taken by various hospitals and clinics throughout the county.

KCPHD also stated in their Monday press conference that the county has no reportable shortage of testing kits or other medical equipment.

“Using CDC guidelines and a physician’s determination, we can ensure that tests are being appropriately administered to those who actually need them,” said Megan Stone, medical director of Urgent Care. “The system is also proving to provide comfort and relief to members of the community who are anxious about their symptoms, but then receive advice and reassurance from a medical professional through the screening process.”

Patients who feel they meet the criteria for COVID-19 sceening (fever higher than 100.4 degrees, cough, shortness of breath, flu-like symptoms) can text the word “SCREENING” to 833-RRH-4YOU (833-774-4968). RRH nursing triage will respond to assess by phone. If patients meet criteria, an appointment will be scheduled.

Patient will drive to the testing site at the hospital’s back parking lot at the appointed time to meet a physician. Practitioners will be wearing protective garb in order to reduce the risk of exposure, and can determine during drive-up appointments whether a test is needed.

If a test is required, physicians can administer swabs while the patient remains in the car. Patients will be given a packet to take home that includes discharge papers, a mask and a thermometer.

If criteria is not met, either by phone or on-site screening, patients will be directed how to manage or treat symptoms and may be advised to self-isolate.

“The first day of our drive-through process went extremely smooth and the patients we met were so appreciative to the hospital and staff for providing this service,” said Amanda Booth, Rural Health Clinic manager. “People thanked us, even when a test was not needed.”

RRH officials noted that the texting system does not generate an immediate call back.

Texts are processed by the nursing triage team and call backs are made as soon as possible. Only one text is needed, as multiple texts delay response time. If the patient is unavailable to answer the return call from nursing triage, a message will be left, if possible, and the patient will need to resend their text to initiate another call back.

The text appointment screening service is currently operating from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, and appointments will be scheduled according to the screening results.

Additional information on the CDC testing criteria and a Symptom Self Check Tool can be found at

For more information, latest updates and advice, visit COVID19.

Story First Published: 2020-03-27