Augusta Health provides details on their testing system at respiratory center

The respiratory assessment center is in the Augusta Health urgent care center in Waynesboro on...
The respiratory assessment center is in the Augusta Health urgent care center in Waynesboro on Lew Dewitt Boulevard. | Credit: WHSV(WHSV)
Published: Apr. 3, 2020 at 6:28 PM EDT
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The respiratory assessment center opened in Augusta Health's Waynesboro urgent care center

as a place for staff to screen patients for symptoms to determine if they need to be tested for COVID-19.

Since then, the hospital estimates they've seen between 400-500 patients there.

Dr. Scott Just, president of Augusta Medical Group, said the center is there to evaluate, treat and educate patients who have concerns about any respiratory illnesses. The hospital is asking anyone with respiratory concerns to go there, rather than their other urgent care centers.

At the center, patient symptoms are assessed and recommendations are made. Patients can either be referred from their primary care provider, the call center, or they can walk in. Dr. Just said it's drive-in registration, and then you wait in your car until it's your turn to see a provider.

"After that assessment, the evaluation is made whether you require testing, or we will provide education for you on how to take care of yourself, things to look for if you're getting worse," Dr. Just said.

He added they chose the Waynesboro location because it's the largest, in case they would need to expand based on community need. It also has a large parking lot and the space for setting up drive-thru assessment if needed.

Dr. Just said they are doing testing at the assessment center, and estimates they've done more than 200 tests between the center and the hospital in the last three weeks. Five of those tests have come back positive for COVID-19.

"We have limited tests," Dr. Just said. "We do have tests available, and we are using our tests judiciously. We're currently testing about 20 to 30 patients per day."

The hospital said they're testing people based on Virginia Department of Health guidelines. They're looking at factors like health risks, how sick the person is, and if they've come into contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19.

Dr. Just said most people who get COVID-19 do well, and they can assess their symptoms at home. However, if you have concerns, clinicians are available at the call center or the assessment center.

"That's why we put the call center, so that if you have questions about your symptoms, you can reach out to a clinician on the phone to help you understand if your symptoms are worrisome enough to be evaluated, or even come to the hospital," Dr. Just said.

At the call center, clinicians can make recommendations like a referral to the assessment center, or to stay home and monitor symptoms. Those include fever, dry cough, and difficulty breathing. You don't have to have all the symptoms in order to call.

"One or two of those symptoms is perfectly appropriate for investigation," Dr. Just said. "Not all symptoms are required."

However, some symptoms are more concerning than others. Dr. Just said a fever is very common, so that's something people should watch for. Issues like a rapid decline in the ability to breathe are more serious, and require attention.

"If you feel like over the course of a day or hours even, your difficulty breathing is increasing significantly, then you should seek help immediately," Dr, Just said.

The call center is staffed seven days a week, from 8:30 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. The number is 540-332-5122. The respiratory assessment center is open seven days a week from 8 a.m. until 7 p.m.

You can learn more about Augusta Health's coronavirus response on their dedicated webpage