Hennepin Healthcare Ramps Up COVID-19 Testing
Minnesota has increased the number of COVID-19 administered over the past few weeks, with 180,971 completed tests as of May 22. The Minnesota Department of Health and a number of local health care systems provide that service.
Hennepin Healthcare began testing March 30. In the two months since that started, the county-owned health system has continued to ramp up significantly.
“We’re just expanding a lot,” said Amy Saenger, medical director of Hennepin Healthcare’s clinical laboratory. “We’re expanding the hours that we’re testing, we’re expanding our outreach efforts significantly, and so we’re pleased to help serve our community and our patients.”
Hennepin Healthcare provides testing in downtown Minneapolis, south Minneapolis, Richfield and Brooklyn Park. Prior to getting tested, Hennepin Healthcare asks people to first conduct an e-visit or speak with a telehealth nurse by calling 612-873-6963.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, common symptoms of the coronavirus are:
- Cough (usually a dry cough)
- Shortness of breath or trouble breathing
- Repeated shaking with chills
- Muscle pain
- Sore throat
- New loss of taste or smell
Saenger says anyone experiencing symptoms consistent with COVID-19 should get tested.
“We’re also testing a lot of asymptomatic individuals that are in ‘high-risk areas’ like congregate living facilities, jails, homeless shelters,” Saenger said. “So as of right now, that’s primarily the recommendation for testing. It could expand into anybody that’s asymptomatic.”
She says Hennepin Healthcare is also working with a number of facilities that are trying to reopen their hospitals and clinics to ensure that their providers are not putting patients at risk. It’s a process Saenger calls “quite complex.”
“We have an outreach manager that works diligently to make sure we get the proper information in terms of what type of volume we’ll be seeing from their facility, if they need collection kits or swabs, if they need training via video to do that collection,” Saenger said. “And then we have to make sure that we have a registration process for those individuals so that we can then return the results via electronic medical record.”
Hennepin Healthcare Would Like to See More People Tested
Governor Walz said this week that while many health care providers have the capacity to test more, they’re not seeing as much turnout as they’d like. Saenger confirmed that the same is true with Hennepin Healthcare.
“We definitely have extra capacity, and we always have,” she said. “I think we’ve been a little bit conservative in the beginning, trying to follow the recommendations of the Minnesota Department of Health.”
She says they’re doing 1,000 tests a day on average, but they have the capacity to do 1,500 per day. Next month, she expects that testing capacity to increase with support of additional equipment from the Department of Health.
“I think a lot of laboratories have the capacity to do more. We just need the support and technical staff and all of that to actually do the test,” Saenger said. “And technologists don’t necessarily pop up overnight, and to do the training and competency within the lab, it just takes some time as well.”
Going forward, she says Hennepin Healthcare will expand its COVID-19 testing capacity in congregate living facilities.
“That volume could be an extra 400-500 per site, depending. Then they’re going to keep re-testing those individuals every week,” Saenger said.