Northwest Arkansas healthcare providers tighten testing guidelines


NORTHWEST ARKANSAS, (KNWA/KFTA) — Several Northwest Arkansas healthcare providers are restricting its guidelines to get tested for COVID-19 amid the pandemic.

A press release was sent Thursday morning, July 2, on behalf of the providers and there are concerns about meeting the growing demand for testing.

“We ended the month, we set a goal of 120,000 tests for the month and we got to the end of the month with 180,000 tests that were done,” said Governor Asa Hutchinson at the daily briefing Wednesday, July 1. 

The state exceeded its testing goal for the month of June and local hospitals are feeling the strain.

The joint statement was on behalf of 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. It said, in part:

“While we wish we could test everyone, unfortunately, that is not realistic or wise for our community until we have ample testing supplies,” said  Eric Pianalto, President of Mercy Hospital Northwest Arkansas.

It also lined out new testing priorities which include people who have symptoms, households that have a confirmed positive case, health care workers with no symptoms but possible exposure, any requests by the ADH and those scheduled for surgery.

The group said this is also a way to conserve PPE and other medical supplies. 

“The hospitals really need to focus their resources on the sick patients that they are caring for. They have platforms they are using to get the results in an hour or a few hours depending on which they are using and the reagents they are using are limited supplies,” said Arkansas Secretary of Health Dr. Nate Smith.

Smith said he’s working with the hospitals to relieve some of the load by having some of the testing sent and completed at other labs.

Meanwhile, some people in our community are finding it hard to get tested even when they show symptoms.

“I called Sparks, Mercy and Walmart testing sites and all three told me that they could not make me an appointment to get tested unless I have a car,”  said Anthony Ashley who lives in the river valley. 

His wife got sick last week.

“We don’t know if it’s heat exhaustion or the flu or the coronavirus and we wanted to get her tested before she went back to work.”

They have had no luck and the closest locations have drive-thru testing sites. Ashley wants to see testing opportunities open up not tighten up.

“I think it’s important that people be able to have access to walkups to get tested and that the testing sites be located near poorer neighborhoods.

For now his wife is isolating at home while he cares for their three children. He hopes to find a place she get tested soon. 

Northwest Arkansas health care providers said people who don’t meet the requirements are encouraged to reach out to their primary care providers.

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

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