Nova Scotia

Drive-thru testing for COVID-19 in Nova Scotia leads to big reduction in PPE use

A new drive-thru testing site for COVID-19 developed in Truro, N.S., is allowing health-care workers to swab more people, while using a fraction of the gowns, gloves and masks the process would use in a traditional indoor setting.

Official at Truro hospital says method has reduced gown, mask and glove usage by more than 80% in some cases

Two nurses at the Colchester East Hants Health Centre in Truro, N.S., explain the drive-thru testing process to a CBC News reporter. (Craig Paisley/CBC)

A new drive-thru testing site for COVID-19 developed in Truro, N.S., is allowing health-care workers to swab more people, while using a fraction of the gowns, gloves and masks the process would use in a traditional indoor setting.

The drive-thru concept began at the Colchester East Hants Health Centre last month and has expanded to the Western Kings Memorial Health Centre in Berwick, N.S., and the Dartmouth General Hospital.

The staff in the Truro drive-thru work out of a tent set up beside the emergency department and has been equipped with electricity, heat, fire extinguishers and furniture.

When cars pull up to a pre-arranged spot, two nurses walk out to greet the car, gather information and swab through the vehicle's window.

In an eight-hour day, three nurses who work in the tent can see about 32 to 40 patients.

Raj Makkar is the health services manager at the Colchester East Hants Health Centre in Truro, N.S. (Shaina Luck/CBC)

Previously, it took more nurses in a traditional setting to swab about 25 to 30 patients, and the nurses would typically change their protective gear after each patient.

"Here, you could see 30 patients and still use the one gown, for example," said Raj Makkar, the health services manager at the Colchester East Hants Health Centre.

Since the patients do not get out of their cars, fewer nurses come into contact with them compared to when patients were tested indoors. As well, the nurses are better able to keep their distance from the patients.

There are also no surfaces such as patient chairs that need to be sanitized by housekeeping after each test.

Heather Wolfe, the manager of the emergency department at Colchester East Hants Health Centre, credits the drive-thru concept with reducing the use of supplies like gowns, masks, face shields and gloves by more than 80 per cent in some cases.

The tent was originally set up on March 24 as a way to "pre-triage" people entering the emergency room so potential COVID patients didn't interact with patients who had other issues. Wolfe said they later realized what else could be done with it.

Drive-thru testing sites have been set up worldwide. This photo shows one at the Vibhavadi Hospital in Bangkok on March 25, 2020. (Jack Taylor/AFP via Getty Images)

"One of the pieces of advice that came through our physician group — it was from New York — said, 'Get a tent, get it yesterday. You don't know what you're going to do with it, but you're going to need it,'" she said.

The drive-thru testing at the Colchester East Hants Health Centre began on April 15.

People who are being tested at the drive-thru sites should still call 811 for an appointment time.

COVID-19 symptoms

The following is a list of symptoms for COVID-19:

  • Fever.
  • New or worsening cough.
  • Sore throat.
  • Runny nose.
  • Headache.

Anyone with two or more of those symptoms should visit 811's website for a self-assessment questionnaire to determine if 811 should be called for further assessment.

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