Letters to the Editor

Letter: Providence needs rapid tests for workers

Why does Providence Alaska Medical Center have no protocol for health care workers to get rapid COVID testing before work shifts?

I practice obstetrics and gynecology at Providence Alaska Medical Center. Our office is currently short-staffed, as are many health care facilities, and one of our physicians is out with COVID-19. Immediately before a scheduled call shift last week, I started feeling nauseated with body aches. When I developed a low-grade fever, I called Providence to inquire how I could get a rapid COVID test before my shift. My thinking was that I would slog through the shift if I were COVID-negative, but of course, I would quarantine at home if I tested positive.

I was disturbed to learn that there was no process for health care workers here to get a rapid COVID test if they are feeling unwell before work. I was told I would have to check into the ER, wait to be seen, have a chart made for me, eventually see a provider who would swab my nose and, of course, pay for whatever portion of the ER visit that was not covered by my insurance. Nearly two years into this pandemic, the hospital has not established a protocol to enable rapid COVID screening of its health care workers.

Every day, my work email inbox contains at least one letter stating, “You are being notified that an individual in our facility has tested positive for COVID-19 and may have exposed others in our workplace to the virus.” The Providence website professes, “We are doing more than ever to help ensure your protection” and “your safety is our priority.” I see signs outside the hospital thanking health care workers and calling them heroes.

Clearly, this is lip service. If Providence truly cared about maintaining patient and health care worker safety, the institution would set up an efficient way for those on the front line to get tested when they are feeling poorly before they have patient interaction.

— Lisa Lepine, M.D.


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