Northwest Arkansas health care community concerned about testing demand


Region's Surge in COVID-19 Cases Strains Testing Capacity

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark (News release) – Mercy released the following statement on Thursday on behalf of Northwest Arkansas Health Care Providers, which include Arkansas Children’s Northwest, Community Clinic, Mercy Northwest Arkansas, Northwest Health System, Washington Regional Medical Center, UAMS Northwest, and the Veterans Health Care System of the Ozarks:

As more Arkansans look to get tested for COVID-19, there is a growing concern from the Northwest Arkansas (NWA) health care community that the national supply chain for testing supplies will have a direct impact on testing in NWA and the rest of the State.

“There is a real concern in the health care community that the current demand for testing will exceed our capacity and impact our ability to provide timely test results needed to provide critical care services for those patients with acute health issues. That goes for both our adult and pediatric populations,” said Larry Shackelford, CEO Washington Regional Medical Center (WRMC).

The increase in the number of patients in the region’s COVID-19 units, combined with heightened testing needs, is a major concern among health care officials. Administering each test requires personal protective equipment (PPE), swabs and testing supplies, and nursing and clinical resources resources that are needed as Northwest Arkansas sees a surge of people seriously ill from the virus.

The NWA health care community is aligned in new testing priorities. Testing criteria is as follows:

  • Symptomatic individuals (cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, or two of the following: fever, chills, muscle aches, sore throat, headache, new taste or smell disorder or quick variation in temperature).
  • Household contacts of confirmed positive COVID-19 individuals (small children are not encouraged to be tested unless they are symptomatic).
  • Asymptomatic health care workers with exposure or possible exposure.
  • Any individual by request of Arkansas Department of Health for exposure.
  • • Pre-operative – having surgical procedures, including scheduled induction and C-section, and pulmonary function testing.

“We are beginning to see the effects of the strain on the lab system’s ability to report results in a timely manner,” said Judd Semingson, CEO of Community Clinic. “While we previously expanded additional testing, appropriate patient care remains our focus. Delayed test results could have negative impacts on these efforts. We want to ensure testing is available to those who need it, while sustaining the resources which are currently available.”

Like much of the nation, medical supply and lab service companies serving NWA have similar concerns.

“Due to factors beyond our control, we are concerned there is an unreliable supply chain for testing reagent that will not meet our current local testing demand,” said Dr. Lucas Campbell, president of NWA Pathology Associates.

In recent national media coverage, Quest Diagnostics, the commercial lab that provides the majority of screening center tests in NWA, stated its systems are overwhelmed, and it would only be able to deliver test results in one day for hospitalized patients, patients facing emergency surgery and symptomatic health care workers. The Atlantic article stated all others being tested would get results in three to five days. Despite the rapid expansion of testing capacity, demand for testing grew by 50% in three weeks.

“To ensure we are monitoring adequate PPE, supplies and resources, we must be good stewards,” said Eric Pianalto, president of Mercy Hospital Northwest Arkansas. “While we wish we could test everyone, unfortunately, that is not realistic or wise for our community until we have ample testing supplies.”

A current list of COVID-19 testing locations is attached and can be found at

Those who do not meet the regional health care providers testing criteria are encouraged to reach out to their primary care provider, ADH or a local convenient care or urgent care location.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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