Saint Luke’s Healthcare System will roll out universal testing on Thursday for asymptomatic patients admitted across its 18 hospitals – four of which are in the Kansas City metro.
The decision is easing concerns and answering the calls many front line workers have made since the start of the pandemic. Dr. Marc Larsen, operations director for Saint Luke’s COVID-19 response, said they want to test every patient who comes through the hospital system to ensure that staff and patients are kept safe.
Symptoms of COVID-19 are only present in about half of patients who test positive for the virus, according to Saint Luke’s.
"We also know that there's a lot of asymptomatic carriers of it,” Larsen said. “You've seen outbreaks in the meatpacking plants around the country and here locally as well, and many of those people are completely asymptomatic."
By rolling to universal testing and identifying those patients who are potentially positive, the health care system will be able to preserve its PPE by knowing who to use it with – Something front line workers have asked for since the pandemic broke out.
“It’s big,” Larsen said.
Kirk Showalter, nurse and house supervisor at Saint Luke’s Hospital, said the “fear of the unknown” is always on the mind as a nurse.
"Knowing that you have the right type of equipment on for the right type of patient is very reassuring whenever you come to work and also when you're going home to your family,” Showalter said.
Larsen said, aside from feeling like it was time, increasing testing was one of the requirements to start reopening and offering more services to patients.
"We understand that patients are scared right now and they are not wanting to come to the hospital,” Larsen said. “They are not wanting to be out in public, and so we feel like this will provide them with that level of comfort that when they do need emergency care or hospital care, that they were going to be protected and they are going to be kept safe."
The asymptomatic testing only applies to anyone admitted to a Saint Luke’s Hospital. If someone has a procedure coming up, they will be required to have a test done via the one of the hospital’s drive thru sites 72 hours before.