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Should hospital patients be released without negative COVID-19 test?

Published: Jul. 29, 2020 at 5:41 PM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - New guidelines from the CDC say you don't need a negative COVID-19 test to leave the hospital or go back to work.

All you need to do is isolate for 10 days or stay in the hospital for that amount of time because the CDC says that is when you are no longer contagious.

Ideally, this would help free up hospital beds. But we're learning some nursing homes still aren't comfortable taking back residents who've had COVID, unless they've had a negative test.

Both doctors and staff at nursing homes are trying to find a solution.

Officials at Augusta University Health say every hospital bed is an important space right now, and there are even healthy people stuck in COVID units.

Who wants to be in a hospital if you're healthy? Especially during a pandemic.

“Of the 72 patients with COVID that we have in our facility right now, we could actually discharge about ten of them to nursing homes,” Dr. Phillip Coule of AU Health said.

AU’s chief medical officer says they’re creating space when they shouldn’t have to and using nurses and staff for patients who don’t need them.

“They’re occupying a bed for a patient that is sick with COVID that is in our emergency department,” Coule said. “It costs the hospital more money because we don’t get compensated once the patient no longer meets a certain criteria to be in the hospital.”

This all comes down to guidelines where the CDC says ten days after symptoms your safe to be around people.

The Georgia Department of Public Health says 10 days for mild symptoms and 20 days for severe.

The science proves a negative test isn't needed anymore.

The Georgia Health Care Association says nursing homes aren't trying to backup hospitals. It's likely that they don't feel like they can safely take care of the patient or manage their current patients' safety.

University Hospital is taking positive nursing home patients even if they're asymptomatic to help facilities in need of space.

It's an issue that you can see from both sides with a fragile population in between.

“It just adds additional stress onto the system that’s completely unnecessary,” Coule said.

Some hospitals such as Doctors Hospital say they are not experiencing this issue at all.

NHC Healthcare in North Augusta says it continues to follow instructions from the CDC.

PruittHealth, which has several nursing homes in our area, told me they are requesting a negative test but it’s not a requirement.

PruittHealth corporate did follow up with News 12 and said it does not request or require a negative test.

A statement from the corporate team of PruittHealth:

“We do not request or require a negative COVID-19 test prior to admitting a patient from a hospital, but may ask if one is available for our records so we know when the next COVID-19 test needs to be performed. Testing is done on a biweekly basis at all Augusta-area PruittHealth centers.”

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