New wooden drive-thru test sites for winter should be in use by early to mid-November at Northern Light hospitals in Ellsworth (above) and Blue Hill.  ISLANDER PHOTO BY ANNE BERLEAN

Cold weather preparations underway for safe testing 

ELLSWORTH  For several months, Northern Light Maine Coast Hospital has administered COVID-19 tests in drive-thru tents in the hospital parking lot and at Resort Way. Testing activity has increased, as all pre-operative patients are tested prior to scheduled procedures, the availability for state-supplied test options for those without symptoms has grown, along with the continued need to test symptomatic patients. As temperatures and weather become increasingly unpleasant and unpredictable, delivering outdoor services is challenging.   

Drawing upon established best practices, the hospital is making necessary changes to its facilities to be prepared for winter and to ensure all patients have access to accurate, safe, COVID-19 testing and treatment.  

To prepare for flu season combined with an anticipated steadily growing need for COVID-19 testing and patient assessments, Northern Light Maine Coast Hospital is eliminating both tents and establishing a year-round, weatherproof site. Testing will be done in a wooden drive-thru structure providing in-car safe, fast and effective testing. The temporary structure will have heating and air-conditioning, protecting staff, technology and equipment from the elements.   

In addition, the hospital is preparing several specially equipped respiratory clinic exam rooms at its Resort Way location.  “We are preparing a safe place for symptomatic patients to be examined and treated,” explains VP Senior Physician Executive Sheena Whittaker. “By creating a total of nine negative pressure rooms with a separate entrance, we can provide full treatment to those with COVID or flu-like symptoms in an exam room. Not only will they be evaluated for possible COVID or influenza, providers will evaluate their chronic respiratory issues such as COPD and asthma so they may also be addressed.”  

Use of the new drive-thru structure and dedicated assessment/respiratory care rooms at Resort Way are expected to start in early to mid-November. 

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