HOUSTON (AP) — A North Texas ambulance provider is partnering with health officials so that its paramedics can go into homes and perform coronavirus testing on previously screened patients.
Specially trained paramedics with MedStar will be sent to homes of residents in Tarrant County who are being investigated by the county public health department as possibly having the virus and are under quarantine at home, said Matt Zavadsky, a spokesman for the ambulance provider.
MedStar is a governmental entity that is the 911 ambulance provider for Fort Worth and 14 other cities in Tarrant County, located west of Dallas.
The Tarrant County Public Health Department will provide MedStar with testing kits. Paramedics will go to a resident’s home, take a swab and deliver that to the health department, which will do the testing. The home testing visits are expected to last about 30 minutes, Zavadsky said.
“This is not a case where someone doesn’t feel well and they want to have a test done. These patients have already gone through the screening process,” Zavadsky said.
For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death. The vast majority of people recover.
The paramedics who will do the home testing are part of a group of 13 specially trained individuals with MedStar’s community paramedicine program who have experience providing and managing health care for patients without the need for hospitalization.
Zavadsky expected the home testing to begin by the end of Friday. The county had 114 confirmed cases of COVID-19 as of Friday.
Due to patient privacy, officials weren’t detailing how many people are being investigated or monitored for the coronavirus, said Richard Hill, a spokesman for the Tarrant County Public Health Department. MedStar will start off with 50 testing kits and get more as needed, Hill said.
In Massachusetts, paramedics were going through training that would allow them to test patients for the coronavirus at their homes. The training came after that state’s health department updated its rules to allow EMS personnel to perform such testing.
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A unique partnership between MedStar and Tarrant County Public Health (TCPH) will send specially trained MedStar personnel into resident’s homes who are being monitored for COVID-19, to complete a medical assessment and collect the sample needed for TCPH to conduct additional testing, MedStar said in a news release.
The goal of the program is to prevent people who are under investigation for the COVID-19 virus from having to travel in public for further evaluation, unless they are seriously ill which may require medical attention.
MedStar is providing this service at no cost to TCPH, the mobile healthcare agency said.
– FWBP Staff contributed to this story