EL hospital serves as beacon of light during crisis

An official at East Liverpool City Hospital holds a standard COVID-19 virus test kit. (Photo by Stephanie Ujhelyi)

EAST LIVERPOOL — In the days since the coronavirus pandemic has hit the United States, people who come to East Liverpool City Hospital (ELCH) find signs on the front doors and a tent pitched in a nearby lot to serve as a drive-up testing center.

Since last week, dozens of people have been screened and then undergone testing for the COVID-19 virus if deemed medically appropriate by a medical professional.

Hospital spokesman Rick Perez explained that the hospital has adopted a proactive approach through this crisis, as it continues to provide for the safety and well-being of their community, patients, staff and health care teams.

While others have struggled with the shortage of test kits, items like personal protective equipment (PPE), East Liverpool has found a little help from their community. Perez said they have received donations of items, like the masks and gloves, which assist in impeding the virus’ spread. However, they continue to struggle to meet the need, while rationing the test kits.

Dr. Gretchen Nickell, chief medical officer for the hospital, described what patients can expect if they respond to the center for evaluation and possible testing.

Staff at East Liverpool City Hospital have become accustomed to wearing all types of personal protection equipment (PPE), while maintaining the hospital’s coronavirus testing center. Pictured are Derek Charlier, director of in-patient services; Dr. Christopher Kinnear, chief resident at ELCH; Dr. Gretchen Nickell, chief medical officer at ELCH; Jo Melott; Dr. Madelyn Corken; Dawn Cox; and Dr. Adam DeYoung. (Photo by Stephanie Ujhelyi)

Between 9 a.m. and 5:30 p.m., seven days a week, a team with a minimum of two doctors and other medical personnel sees to the needs of patients, screening them while they are still seated in their vehicles and then deciding whether a chest x-ray or coronavirus swab kit is in order.

Due to the kits’ limited availability, tests are given on an as-needed basis.

For testing, Dr. Nickell explains the patient, who must meet certain criteria (i.e. fever), has their mouth swabbed near the tonsils and are generally sent home for self-isolation with the test results expected from Labcorp in one week.

“We have had no positive tests so far, and we have done 80 so far,” she said.

How does it work? Medical officials explain that it is all about isolating and identifying the viral particles or RNA, which the virus uses to replicate itself and then looking for the presence of the COVID-19 virus in the spectrum.

In addition to the fever, other symptoms can include trouble breathing, persistent pain or pressure in the chest, new confusion and bluish lips. Others also have noted changes in taste and smell early on after contacting the virus.

Several triggers can result in a patient being released from self-isolation before the 14 days: a negative swab test, significant improvement in symptoms, two negative tests taken at least 24 hours apart and seven days since your symptoms appeared in the first place.

However, it is important that a negative test doesn’t rule out a later positive test, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). In an online article, officials pointed out that just because someone tested negative at the time of collection doesn’t mean they couldn’t get infected at a later time — especially if exposed after the fact.

So authorities recommend that you continue to practice social distancing and the hygiene recommendations, after being confirmed virus free.

It is believed that many of the people who contract it might be carriers and be asymptomatic. Others, especially if elderly or immunosuppressed, may suffer more severe symptoms.

Despite a bit of a wait after getting their test results back or no testing at all, individuals are responding positively to the hospital’s efforts. ELCH officials do hope with the approval of faster test options last week by the Food and Drug Administration that they may be able to see more advancement in the fight against the virus.

But so far, area residents do seem to be appreciative of the hospital’s efforts during this crisis, explained chief resident Dr. Christopher Kinnear. “Most of them leave pretty happy,” he concluded, although they may not have concrete answers yet. “They appreciate the information and the evaluation.”

For more information about the hospital’s drive-up testing center, call 330-843-1501 or follow their page on Facebook.

Take precautions to protect yourself, your family &your community

— 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, such as counters, door knobs, keyboards and light switches, daily.

SOURCE: East Liverpool City Hospital