When initial plans for a pandemic testing site in the western communities didn’t come to fruition, an innovative and first-of-its-kind, three-way partnership was formed between Palm Beach County, the Village of Wellington and Premier Family Health to fill the void.
“The Western Communities Council had a desire to see if anybody else could get a testing site going after the initial effort for a testing site at Walmart in Royal Palm Beach could not be executed,” Wellington’s Assistant Village Manager Jim Barnes explained.
Barnes said that Wellington quickly volunteered to provide a site at the gymnasium facility at Village Park on Pierson Road.
“The county was interested and was looking for a municipality as a partner,” Barnes said. “The village stepped up with a location at the Village Park facility, and we already had a relationship with Premier for our wellness program.”
While the village supplied the site and Premier the healthcare expertise, the county was instrumental in getting the necessary testing kits.
“The county took the role of the state and provided the test kits, and Premier provided the testing staff,” Barnes continued. “We prepared a tri-party agreement, and we were off to the races.”
Premier Family Health’s Dr. Vincent Apicella was proud to be part of the area’s testing solution.
“We saw the need in the western communities,” Apicella said. “It was a no brainer. We used the Village Park gymnasium as the location, and we used our personnel and clinicians. The initiative came down from the Palm Beach County Emergency Operations Center to the village. It was a team effort, and we supplied the resources, strategy, procedures and time. Our clinicians sacrificed their time and effort and risked exposure. We were honored to be a part of it.”
The testing started May 13 and ended May 29 after the initial demand waned.
“It worked out even better than any party had anticipated,” Barnes said.
The county supplied the testing kits and Quest Diagnostics labs tested the swabs for the more than 2,000 patients who were tested. The objective was to test 2,000 residents of the western communities. For people with no insurance, the testing was a free service. Those with insurance had no co-payments.
Premier’s Chief Operating Officer J. Anthony Nelson said the program was done within the specified timeframe and was completed over 13 days.
Nurse Practitioner Elizabeth Lofaso of Premier Family Health ran the operation and said that the team members did it because they believe in serving the community. She was glad they were getting some recognition.
“People were shocked at how calm and safe feeling the operation was,” Lofaso said. “With the virtual waiting room, there was no handwriting. The computer filled out the forms, so everything was legible. The whole process took five to eight minutes from start to finish. It was a five-day to seven-day turnaround for the clients to get their results. The space was beautiful, there was social distancing and we are confident in the results.”
For patients interested in antibody tests, which reveal prior exposure, Premier Family Health was able to offer that procedure at its office separately.
A virtual waiting room was set up, similar to the web site Quest Diagnostics uses to take appointments, answer frequently asked questions and provide links.
“It was a portal through the village’s web site, so there was one web address and it was easy to handle,” Barnes said. “The village also fielded telephone call-ins to answer questions and set up appointments for those not using computers.”
The operation was one of the first walk-up testing sites; previous ones were drive-through facilities.
“I can’t say enough about the county. Their people were very responsive to schedules. In fact, all the parts worked well together,” Barnes said. “We are proud and pleased to have provided this service for the community of Wellington and surrounding areas.”
Lofaso agreed. “It was a unique effort to partner with a private company and a municipality, and it was the first such effort between the county and the village and a private company,” she noted.
If you are looking for a COVID-19 test currently, Palm Beach County’s web site provides a list of available locations at www.pbcgov.com/coronavirus. To learn more about the services offered by Premier Family Health, visit www.premierfamilyhealth.com.