Lack of supplies causing delays in coronavirus testing, Atrium CEO told US Senate

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CHARLOTTE, NC (McClatchy) – Atrium Health is processing coronavirus testing at just 20% to 25% of capacity due to a nationwide shortage of the chemicals needed to perform the test, the company president said on Tuesday based in Charlotte to a US Senate panel.

Gene Woods, president and CEO of the nonprofit system, said Atrium can handle 4,000 coronavirus tests per day with its in-house lab equipment. But they process much less than that, he said, “due to the nation’s shortage of reagent supplies.”

Reagents are chemicals used in a reaction to detect a substance and are needed in COVID-19 tests to get a positive or negative result.

“We could probably do four times as many tests and have close to the same day turnaround time, the challenge is in the reagents and, again in some ways, the swabs,” Woods said. “We really need to keep increasing the inventory of reagents in order to speed up testing. That would be our request.

Almost five months after the first laboratory-confirmed case of coronavirus in North Carolina, the state is again facing long wait times for test results.

The average turnaround time is now closer to six or seven days, said Dr Mandy Cohen, the state’s top health official. This turnaround time was two or three days in June.

Mecklenburg County Public Health Director Gibbie Harris said the turnaround time in the county is five to 10 days.

RACIAL DISPARITIES IN HEALTH

Woods said his healthcare system has expanded its supplier base in the wake of the pandemic, adding suppliers it did not previously have.

Atrium Health has spent around $ 45 million to make sure it has enough personal protective equipment during the COVID-19 pandemic, Woods said during his remote appearance before the Special Senate Committee on the aging.

The hearing was to examine the racial health disparities highlighted by the pandemic, particularly with regard to the elderly.

North Carolina has more than 101,000 laboratory-confirmed coronavirus cases and more than 1,600 people have died from the virus since March.

In North Carolina, those 65 and over account for 12% of all coronavirus cases, but almost 80% of deaths.

A quarter of all cases and a third of all deaths in North Carolina involve black residents, who make up 22% of the state’s population. Hispanics make up 43% of all cases in the state, but less than 10% of the state’s overall population.

REAL-TIME DATA

Witnesses at the hearing said issues such as affordable housing, food insecurity and lack of education play a significant role in the disparities linked to COVID.

“These are people who do not have fairness and equality in access to jobs, education and health care,” said Rodney Jones, Sr., CEO of East Liberty Health Center in Pittsburgh.

Senator Susan Collins, Republican from Maine and chair of the committee, said her condition was the worst in terms of racial disparity. .

North Carolina lacks racial data on more than 32,000 cases and 50 deaths and lacks ethnic data on more than 35,000 cases and 110 deaths. Senator Elizabeth Warren, a Democrat from Massachusetts, said only 55% of cases reported to the Centers for Disease Control included data on race and ethnicity.

In Mecklenburg County, blacks account for 15.3% of cases and 31.5% of deaths, while Hispanics account for 30.8% of cases and 12.4% of deaths. Almost 40% of cases in the county do not have racial data.

Woods said Atrium’s internal data collection and analysis, which she shared with local public health departments, enabled her to deploy roving test vans in church and YMCA parking lots. in six high-risk postal codes in Mecklenburg County. Woods said Atrium sent Spanish speakers to Hispanic community sites.

“Without this real-time data, it’s really difficult to contain and ultimately eliminate COVID,” Woods said.

Senator Richard Burr, a Republican from North Carolina, is a member of the committee. He introduced Woods, saying Atrium has over 14 million patient interactions each year and employs nearly 70,000 people.

Woods said Atrium, along with other business and public partners in Charlotte, has distributed more than 500,000 masks to the community with a focus on minorities and the elderly.

At the end of June, the group had pledged to deliver 2 million masks to the community. Governor Roy Cooper instituted a mask mandate in the state on June 24.

Copyright 2020 McClatchy. All rights reserved.


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