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Yale New Haven Health mobilized to establish drive-through COVID-19 specimen collection sites at several locations throughout the state.

YNHHS employees mobilize to establish and staff drive-through specimen collection centers

As COVID-19 cases rose nationwide throughout March, Yale New Haven Health moved quickly to open drive-through specimen collection sites across the system to provide diagnostic testing for people in Connecticut.

The first Outdoor COVID-19 Specimen Collection Station launched at Greenwich Hospital March 9; additional stations were established at Bridgeport, Lawrence + Memorial and Yale New Haven hospitals and Post Road Medical Center in Milford in the days and weeks following. Collection sites dedicated solely to healthcare workers are operating at Westerly Hospital and YNHH’s Saint Raphael Campus.

The turnaround time between initial concept and collection site openings proceeded at record speed.

“The first site was conceptualized, built and inspected by the Connecticut Department of Public Health in less than a week,” said Rebecca McCray, RN, director, YNHH Ambulatory Operations.

“When we got the call to do this it was all hands on deck,” said Teodorico Lee, director, Bridgeport Hospital Laboratory Services. “This was unprecedented. We were finalizing the workflow site at 8 am in time for an inspection by the DPH at noon the same day. It was a bit of a logistical nightmare, but there was good coordination from everyone.”

The projects require involvement from many areas, including Ambulatory operations, Facilities, Information Technology Services, Materials Management, Laboratory Medicine, Nursing, Infection Prevention, Environmental Services, Ancillary Services and Protective Services.

“The staff stepped up quickly to be a part of the new collection sites and has a positive energy each day to deal with an ever-changing situation,” said McCray.

Each site is staffed by a number of employees who perform the collection process – labeling test tubes, verifying patient identification, swabbing and distributing educational material. Depending on the site, staff may include Laboratory phlebotomists, technicians and draw station outreach employees. Protective Services officers are at each site.

Nursing staff have been deployed to the collection sites from different units and departments. Each eight-hour shift at YNHH’s Long Wharf site includes 12 ambulatory care associates/techs and 12 nurses, mainly from Primary Care, the Heart and Vascular Center and Digestive Health. Employees from Yale New Haven Children's Hospital’s Pediatric Specialty Center at 500 West Putnam Ave. in Greenwich staff Greenwich Hospital’s site; Bridgeport Hospital’s site is staffed primarily by Emergency Department and Post Anesthesia Care Unit nurses. Nurses from the VNA of Southeastern Connecticut perform collections at Lawrence + Memorial Hospital.

The number of samples collected daily ramped up quickly, reaching around 70 at L+M and the Post Road Medical Center, more than 160 at BH and 300 at Long Wharf. By mid-April, YNHHS had conducted more than 20,000 tests, yielding around 5,500 positive results.

“Our team has endured some pretty cold, yucky days, but have really stepped up to help our community,” said Stacey Brassil, RN, assistant patient service manager, Pediatric Specialty Center, Greenwich.

Besides the logistical demands of setting up multiple sites quickly while ensuring safe patient care, staff have dealt with challenges around supplies and test results.

“Getting swabs in and knowing where we were sending samples were challenges,” said Nicole Gomes, director of laboratories, L+M and Westerly Hospital. “At first it changed frequently based on supplies.”

“There was an initial frustration of getting results to patients in a timely manner,” said Lee. “Now we have a rhythm to it and turnaround time has improved.”