Roseland Community Hospital launches drive-thru COVID-19 testing

The hospital’s in-house laboratory will be able to process 2,800 blood tests per day and have some results as soon as two-and-a-half hours.

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People wait in line to be tested for coronavirus at one of Roseland Community Hospital’s testing tents, Friday, April 3, 2020.

People wait in line to be tested for coronavirus at one of Roseland Community Hospital’s testing tents, Friday, April 3, 2020.

Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times

Roseland Community Hospital is now offering drive-thru COVID-19 testing for South Side residents and others who want to be tested for the deadly virus.

The facility administered 367 tests Thursday, the unofficial launch of the drive-thru services.

The testing includes a nasal swab and blood test that determines if someone has contracted COVID-19 or is immune to the virus, said Jennifer Bishop, CEO of American Medical Lab, which helped bring the rapid testing services to the Far South Side hospital.

Dr. Terrill Applewhite, chairman of Roseland’s COVID-19 task force, said testing is greatly needed in the nearby neighborhoods, and the hospital can fill that need by “easily” doing 600 “studies” a day.

“We want to try to help the community as much as we can and get through this crisis together,” Bishop added.

The tests will be processed through the patients’ insurance. For those paying out of pocket, the blood tests will cost $75 and the nasal swabs, $200.

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Roseland Community Hospital is offering drive-thru and walk-up testing for the coronavirus to the public, Friday, April 3, 2020. | Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times

Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times

At the drive-thru, medical professionals interview motorists, do a temperature test and determine if the person needs to be tested. No appointments or prescriptions are required.

The hospital has also converted its dental van into a mobile COVID-19 testing center that travels to residences to test the city’s elderly population.

The hospital’s in-house laboratory will process 2,800 blood tests a day and produce results as soon as two-and-a-half hours. Some test results can take a few weeks.

While the testing will predominantly serve South Side residents, anyone who exhibits symptoms can be tested.

“Obviously we want to take care of our community first, but we know that this pandemic is beyond our community,” said Tim Egan, CEO of Roseland Community Hospital. “So the bigger dent we can make, the more test we can do, the better role we’ll play in flattening this curve.”

Egan also said the hospital will be collecting thousands of samples from first responders, including those working at the Cook County Jail, Chicago Police Department and Chicago Fire Department.

“We are on the front line folks and this is no time to cut funding to the new Roseland Hospital,” Egan said alluding to the $3.7 million the facility stands to lose in state funding next year.

“This is a crisis, we are in a fight and we will stay in the fight till the fight is over.”

While drive-thru testing is convenient, it does comes at a cost, hospital officials noted.

In addition to anticipating significant expenses mostly going toward staff pay, there are other downsides.

“The biggest issue we are dealing with now is staff burnout,” said Applewhite, who is recruiting as many volunteers as he can. “There are a lot of issues associated with longer work hours and sicker patients.”

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