Expanding Coronavirus Testing to the Public
It’s been about two weeks since our director, Dr. Ann Kiessling, ran a SARS2 (Coronavirus) test on her daughter, Wilma, that came back positive. Thankfully, Wilma had few symptoms, and Wilma’s husband and toddler continue to test negative. Dr. Kiessling ran this test because Wilma, a worker at a Massachusetts state hospital, was unable to get tested at work after being exposed by one of her patients.
This incident has underlined the urgent need for on-demand testing for SARS2. In this case, the testing and results were so tardy that Wilma was not even aware that she might be exposing her husband and toddler for almost a week.
Since March 19, BRF has been offering SARS2 (Coronavirus) testing to local hospitals, and yesterday, Tuesday, April 21, BRF piloted a new program of completely open, public testing (see pics on WickedLocal). The program was run in partnership with Bedford’s First Parish Unitarian Church. The church set up a tent on its front lawn to collect samples, and members from the congregation were invited to participate. Online pre-registration streamlined the process so that no paperwork was needed on-site. This pilot program was a huge success, and BRF is hoping to expand it in partnership with other local organizations. Find out more about signing up your organization by emailing: email@example.com
PHOTOS: Bedford residents get tested during BRF’s pilot program on Tuesday, April 21, 2020. [Wicked Local Staff Photo/Ann Ringwood] More photos at WickedLocal.
Front-line workers are still unable to get adequate access to testing in Massachusetts. Please donate now to help support our public testing program.
Why Aren’t There More Programs Like This?
This program is now possible because federal guidelines recently lifted the limitation of “symptoms only” testing by independent laboratories. Simultaneously, Governor Baker’s task force has urged us to do our own outreach to encourage “public” testing, which we have now begun.
However, a couple of key barriers still exist in MA. First, there is an old public health law that testing by licensed laboratories can only be performed at the request of a physician. The Obama administration tried to eliminate this provision entirely, country-wide, in keeping with Institute of Medicine recommendations from 20 years ago, but the Commonwealth is one of a few states has retained it nonetheless. For our pilot program, BRF has partnered with a local physician to provide these requisitions and collect the samples from patients.
A second barrier is reimbursement for testing. BRF has been informed by doctors that Medicare is reimbursing at a significantly lower rate for small labs, like BRF, than for large labs, like Quest Diagnostics. This lower reimbursement is happening even though in many cases BRF is able to provide faster and/or more specialized results. This puts doctors in the difficult position of choosing between the best test for their patient and covering the costs of their practice. BRF is looking into why this is the case.
We Need Your Support
State funds and insurance reimbursements don’t cover the costs of this vitally needed testing program. We need support from donors like you to provide as many tests as possible to the community. Please consider a donation today!