BRATTLEBORO — Since Nov. 18, Brattleboro Memorial Hospital has been offering no-questions-asked COVID-19 testing on evenings and weekends.
“We get about 54 people in the evenings and about 60 people on weekend days,” said Becky Burns, director of community initiatives for BMH. “So far, we’ve done more than 550.”
Burns said the testing is drive-through, under the rear canopy of the Richards Building, and the tests are self-administered under the direction of a clinician. And even better for most folks, she said, is the cotton swab only needs to go into the nose, and not all the way to the back of the nasal cavity.
Kathleen McGraw, BMH’s chief medical officer and chief information officer, said this process, which is a standard PCR test used by the contracted lab for BMH, is “a much more tolerable swab” than the more intrusive PCR test many people are all too familiar with. She also said the test is just as accurate as long as enough epithelial cells are obtained.
Working with the Vermont Department of Health, BMH partnered with the Cambridge Innovation Center and the Broad Institute, both in Cambridge, Mass., to set up the testing site.
“The testing provides increased access for the community,” said McGraw.
Burns said the turnaround time for testing results is 24 to 48 hours, and the testing is staffed by trained clinicians who volunteer to work some extra hours. All overtime related to the testing is paid for with Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act funding.
“No clinician order is required,” said Burns. Walk-ups are also accepted, but people need to register for testing at the Vermont Department of Health’s website.
“This is for folks who are asymptomatic,” said Burns. “If you do have symptoms, you should be talking with your primary care provider.”
The drive-through site is open Monday through Friday from 5 to 8 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
“It’s free and there are no insurance requirements,” said Burns. And it’s open access, too, she said, meaning it’s not just for Vermonters. “We have long wanted to provide more testing. It has been clear there is a need for more, which is much more evident during the holidays.”
McGraw said the hospital continues its own internal testing of employees, in-patients and pre-operative patients.
McGraw also said the hospital is well-positioned to care for the community, even if a surge of infections happens in the region.
“We are not overwhelmed and have never been,” she said.