Ohio Hills Health Services is actively developing a long-term plan to begin offering COVID-19 testing as a result of receiving funding through the Health Resources and Services Administration. This funding will support over 4,500 Rural Health Centers across the country to support COVID-19 testing efforts and to expand access to testing in rural communities. OHHS plans to begin testing in June and testing will be available to everyone in the OHHS service area.
“This funding will be used for a COVID-19 testing program, including procuring supplies to provide testing, training providers and staff on COVID-19 testing procedures, reporting data on COVID-19 testing activities and community education,” said Jeff Britton, CEO, OHHS. “Funds may also be used towards temporary structures or retrofitting facilities to meet this new demand. We are excited to move forward to better meet the needs of area residents.”
Two kinds of tests are available for COVID-19: a viral test and an antibody test. A viral test, which consists of a nasal swab, shows if you have a current infection. However, not everyone may need this test. If you have symptoms of COVID-19 call your healthcare provider first to determine if the test is appropriate for you. The antibody test, which is a blood test, tells you if you had a previous infection. According to the most recent CDC guidelines an antibody test may not be able to show if you have a current infection, because it can take 1-3 weeks after an infection to make antibodies. It is not known if having antibodies to the virus can protect someone from getting infected with the virus again, or how long that protection might last.
During Governor DeWine’s press conference on May 21st he emphasized the important role that Federally Qualified Health Centers, such as Ohio Hills Health Services, will play in providing COVID-19 testing for our underserved region.
“OHHS will work with our health care providers, local health departments and hospitals to develop a plan for testing and reporting that meets the needs of our communities,” said Carol Davolio, RN, Director of Clinical Services. “As a federally qualified health center, OHHS, is in a unique position to assist those who otherwise may not have access to or be able to afford testing. However, it is important to remember testing is only one part of the response to COVID-19. Area residents need to continue prevention practices such as good hand washing, social distancing and wearing a mask.”
COVID-19’s arrival in rural communities threatens a particularly vulnerable group of people. Many rural residents are older, poorer and have access to fewer hospital facilities and medical staff. Testing allows for those individuals infected with COVID-19 to be identified and isolated. This can help to minimize the spread of COVID-19 in the community. A safe reopening is vital for Americans’ health and well-being, and especially so for those living in rural areas, who may have struggled with access to healthcare long before COVID-19 and found care even harder to access during this crisis
Once testing protocols are finalized OHHS will notify all local health care providers and the community regarding how to access testing. OHHS has health centers in Barnesville, Caldwell, Freeport, Quaker City and Woodsfield and provides primary and preventative health services regardless of an individual’s ability to pay. For information call 740-239-OHHS.
Photo: Jeff Britton, CEO, OHHS; Jodi Gottardi, PA-C, Board Certified Physician Assistant, Barnesville Family Health Center and Carol Davolio, RN, Director of Clinical Services, OHHS, reviewing testing guidelines.