HYDE PARK — University of Chicago Medicine will expand coronavirus testing so its hospitals and other facilities can test up to 1,000 people daily.
Testing at the University of Chicago Medicine campus will come at no cost to patients. Those who are insured will pay through their plans without co-pays, and those without insurance will receive testing for free.
Partner institutions will be left to decide the cost of testing at their sites, said Brenda Battle, chief diversity and inclusion.
The system is already testing at University of Chicago Medical Center in Hyde Park and Ingalls Memorial Hospital in south suburban Harvey. It’s expanding those efforts by creating more drive-thru testing at the hospitals and by sharing resources, including testing equipment and access to on-campus labs, with various partners, said Dr. Stephen Weber, CEO of University of Chicago Medicine and an infectious disease doctor.
Those partners include South Side community hospitals, nursing facilities and health centers.
About half of the tests will be available to the public who have symptoms, while the rest will be reserved for community partners, health care workers, emergency room patients and hospitalized inpatients.
An average of 200 tests have been performed daily since testing began March 15, according to the hospital.
“Thanks to the outstanding collaboration among our medical and administrative teams, we have been able to secure the needed supplies and provide access to the latest technology to dramatically expand community access to COVID-19 testing,” said Kenneth Polonsky, executive vice president for medical affairs, in a statement.
Current testing partners:
- La Rabida Children’s Hospital
- St. Anthony Hospital
- St. Bernard Hospital
- Palos Heights Hospital
- ACCESS Community Health Network
- Montgomery Place
- Symphony South Shore
- Villa at Windsor Park
This is “just the inaugural group of partners,” and UChicago Medicine is “looking to expand it even further” to other South Side health facilities, Weber said.
“We know expanded testing is vitally important, but it is especially important in communities of color where there is a disproportionately high death rate from this pandemic,” Battle said in a statement.
Weber said he hopes the partnerships created now can be used to help the South Side after the pandemic. A limited supply of testing swabs was the health system’s “Achilles’ heel” through the first month of testing, he said.
“Now as we feel even more comfortable about the continuity of that supply, we really want to make sure we’re sharing” with South Side partners, Weber said.
The number of daily tests has increased from 200 to about 350 in the past couple days, and if hundreds more “were to come today, we can do the testing,” he said.
“This is certainly more than good intentions; we have the goods to get this done,” Weber said. “This is not a two-month plan. We want to get to 1,000 a day as quickly as we can.”
UChicago Medicine is also “getting ready to go live” with antibody testing — which checks if you have ever been infected — in the next few weeks, according to Weber.
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