WATERLOO, Iowa (KWWL) -- In downtown Waterloo, a MercyOne clinic operates 12-5 each day as an assessment and testing site for the coronavirus.
The clinic is currently seeing patients as an appointment-only basis. To get a better sense of what the process was like, KWWL put a reporter through a simulated visit, in which no testing supplies or personal protective equipment was wasted.
The process begins before a patient even comes to the clinic, as a doctor or other healthcare provider must refer them to the clinic based on a set of criteria. The testing criteria, set by the state, involves a person's age, if they're a healthcare worker, exposure, or if they've already been hospitalized.
It's recommended that if they can, the patient drives themselves to the appointment so as to not expose anyone else. The providers do understand that for everyone that might not be an option.
“So as we develop and this respiratory clinic came into play we studied a lot of different health systems and how they put together a similar clinic," said Missy Santman, the Director of Clinic Operations for MercyOne.
Santman was one of several people who walked us through the process. Our crew pulled up to the clinic, completely staying in their car, then a provider walks out to the car with strict directives. A patient will identify themselves by showing ID before the provider determines if they need to come into the clinic for assessment or can go straight to the testing garage.
"They get a full assessment of their symptoms. From there they are either referred to our drive-thru screening area or treated, again, based on their symptoms," said Dawn Kleve, a nurse practitioner at the clinic.
If a person is escorted inside, they must have an escort from the clinic and any passengers would stay in the car. The patient will cross their arms over their chest so as to not touch any surface while entering or exiting the facility.
“If they're getting an assessment done the provider may ask them to put their hands down so they can do a thorough assessment, listen to their lungs or whatever they feel they need to do. But when they go to leave their hands go back up to their chest," Santman said.
If it's decided that a patient needs a test for COVID-19, they'll drive around the building to what was once an ambulance garage. The testing will occur there and the patient will once again stay in their car. Each patient will give two samples essentially. A nasal swab collects a sample from inside the nasal cavity, which will likely cause the patient to cough into a tissue provided by the test collectors. They'll take both samples and then the patient will leave.
Currently, the facility has multiple exam rooms and a handful of staff. However, they say they're prepared to adjust to the communities needs
“We can staff it up as much as we need to meet the needs of the community. We can add additional providers, additional staff, we're here to do whatever we need to do support the community," Santman said.