Walk-in healthcare clinics ‘overwhelmed’ by coronavirus testing requests

Updated: Mar. 14, 2020 at 12:13 AM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Some walk-in healthcare clinics across the state say they’ve been swamped by the demand for coronavirus tests, frustrating patients forced to stand in long lines.

Urgent Care Hawaii says about 100 people showed up at its drive-up service in Kapolei on Thursday. About a quarter of those people were actually tested, with some waiting as long as four hours to finish the process.

“We were overwhelmed yesterday to the response to people wanting testing," said Donna Schmidt, the company’s chief executive officer.

The situation got the attention of U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, claimed on social media that the clinic was turning away people who should have been tested. On Friday, she tweeted that one of her friends ― who said he was sick and had recently been in contact with a coronavirus patient ― was turned away.

“In the hour he was there, three other sick people were turned away,” Gabbard tweeted.

But Schmidt said the man was not qualified for a test, didn’t have the required symptoms, and became agitated as he was rebuffed.

“He escalated and apparently he threatened our employees," Schmidt said. “We did call security, and the police came and helped, too.”

The clinic now says people need to get a referral from state Department of Health or their doctor for tests.

So far in Hawaii, two people have tested positive for the coronavirus.

Officials believe that number will undoubtedly rise as testing ramps up.

Already, new testing locations are being made available, including triage tents outside the Queen’s Medical Center. Those testing centers are using similar testing benchmarks.

“We’re treating people who are symptomatic," said Dr. Daniel Chen, Medical Director for the Queen’s Medical Center’s emergency room.

“If you have no symptoms at this time, and have some risk factor, the best advice is stay at home, self-isolate for 14 days.”

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