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Mercy Health changes COVID testing eligibility

As testing supplies dwindle, Mercy Health is forced to make changes to who is eligible to receive a COVID test.

FORT SMITH, Ark. — In a letter obtained by 5NEWS to Mercy Health physicians, Mercy is changing their guidance for who is eligible to receive a COVID-19 test.

The changes were made based on the inventory of testing supplies currently on hand and when Mercy's new shipments are expected to arrive.

Thursday, Jan. 13, President Joe Biden said, "this month, it's estimated that we will hit approximately 15 million tests a day."

With the soaring number of tests being given nationwide, here at home, Mercy is struggling to keep up with demand, forcing the hospital system to decide who will receive a test.

The change states that there is "no testing available for individuals that do not have symptoms and are requesting a test for things such as return to work/school, travel, exposure without symptoms, etc."

Physicians are being asked to make "clinical Judgments" on whether or not a patient is positive for COVID, they do not need a test to confirm. Patients are asked to follow quarantine guidance given by their provider.

If a patient were to arrive and reports symptoms of COVID an assessment will be done to determine if the patient has a high probability of being COVID positive and has other risk factors. If this is the case, an antigen test will be given. 

However, if the patient is not at risk of other factors and showing mild symptoms physicians may forego testing and recommend monitoring symptoms, following quarantine guidance, and following any prescribed treatment.

Another change listed in the letter breaks down how to preserve tests if a person is confirmed positive with others living in the home.

If one person is confirmed positive and another begins to show symptoms, they should be treated as positive and no additional test will be given. Mercy states, "their quarantine period would reset and begin on the first day their symptoms developed."

The letter acknowledges the changes will be difficult to communicate to patients and could pose issues for those whose employers require a test before allowing for time off or to return to work. In their effort to conserve tests until more shipments arrive, Mercy, will "take the steps needed to be good stewards of (their) very limited resources."

Additionally, Mercy Health says they "are currently out of monoclonal antibody infusions." They go on to state, "these medications are distributed to health systems from the state and as of today we do not have any available at our facilities."

While these changes are impacting testing eligibility, anyone who is eligible to be tested will be directed to a testing location following clinical guidance.

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