ELLSWORTH — Hospitals in Ellsworth and Blue Hill are readying their facilities as winter approaches with no sign of the coronavirus pandemic being vanquished.
Northern Light Maine Coast Hospital and Northern Light Blue Hill Hospital now have temporary wooden structures designed for drive-through testing, affording greater protection from the outdoor elements over the pop-up tents in use since summer.
“The buildings will be used for drive-through testing only,” Director of Communications Kelley Columber said. “Hopefully, when we have a vaccine, we can use it for that.”
The buildings are designed for year-round use and come with heat and air conditioning — and an estimated $60,000 price tag, according to a building permit issued to Northern Light Maine Coast Hospital by the city of Ellsworth in September.
More people are being tested for COVID-19 at both hospitals, according to an Oct. 6 press release.
“Testing activity has increased, as all pre-operative patients are tested prior to scheduled procedures and the availability for state-supplied test options for those without symptoms has grown alongside the continued need to test symptomatic patients.”
The two hospitals are also preparing specially equipped respiratory clinic exam rooms in the Sussman Health Center in Blue Hill and at Resort Way in Ellsworth.
“By creating these special rooms, symptomatic and asymptomatic patients will not mingle,” said Senior Physician Mike Murnik, who is based in Blue Hill. A dedicated entrance and “properly ventilated rooms” will contribute to the safety of patients.
Ellsworth-based Senior Physician Sheena Whittaker added: “Not only will [patients] be evaluated for possible COVID or influenza, providers will evaluate their chronic respiratory issues such as COPD and asthma so they may also be addressed.”
Columber said the new drive-through structures and dedicated exam rooms are expected to be in use by early to mid-November.