Wichita health system directs COVID patients from immediate care to testing site

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Looking to relieve problems with overcrowding, a Wichita health system is directing patients with mild COVID-19 symptoms to an off-site testing facility instead of its immediate care center.

Ascension Medical Group Via Christi announced the change Monday, saying patients who want to visit the immediate care center at 3311 E. Murdock should schedule an appointment by phone at 316-274-8107.

Patients will be screened for COVID-19 symptoms. Those with mild “viral respiratory symptoms” will be directed to an undisclosed off-site testing location, freeing up the immediate care clinic to handle more acute illnesses and minor injuries.

“This will allow our Immediate Care as well as our family medicine clinics to focus on caring for patients with more acute needs and give patients with mild respiratory symptoms an alternative to going to the ER,” Philip Newlin, chief medical officer for Ascension Medical Group Via Christi, said in a news release. “Helping patients find the care they need in the most appropriate setting is just one step we are taking to help address the overcrowding of our hospitals, ERs and urgent care clinics.”

On Monday, Sedgwick County posted the highest number of COVID-19 patients in local hospitals since the pandemic hit Wichita in March 2020, topping previous records in November 2020. The Sedgwick County Health Department reported 277 patients in Wichita hospitals and 80 COVID-19 patients in ICUs. That’s the highest number of COVID-19 ICU patients reported since Dec. 21, 2020.

The new temporary testing site would add about 100 tests a day to local network of COVID-19 testing sites that has struggled to stay open amid a surge in new cases. Wichita State University’s drive-through Molecular Diagnostics Lab at 4174 S. Oliver has been closed since last week due to staffing shortages. And Hunter Health announced last week it was limiting tests to only those with COVID-19 symptoms.

Ascension Via Christi would not say where the testing site is located but said it is near the east side immediate care clinic. It will be open 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.

“While we are caring for around 140 patients a day, we are receiving calls from about 240,” Mollie Botts, director of operations at the Ascension immediate care clinic, said in a news release. “Many of these calls are coming from patients with viral respiratory symptoms that need to be assessed.”

When a patient calls to schedule an appointment, they will press “1” for COVID-19 or respiratory care, and “their symptoms then will be assessed to determine whether an office visit is needed or simply a swab specimen collected and sent to the lab for testing.”

If testing is needed, the patient will be given quarantine instructions and told to watch for their results to be posted on a patient portal in two to three days.

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