BILLINGS, Mont. - As part of Governor Steve Bullock's COVID-19 management plan, St. Vincent Healthcare announced that starting Monday, they are offering free asymptomatic testing for all their employees.
Universal mask wearing, entrance screening and social distancing are only some of the countless steps hospitals have taken to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 in their facilities.
But with a surge of cases in the state, the Governor has stepped in, "He did ask health care facilities to engage in surveillance testing.", said Dr. Michael Bush, Chief Medical Officer for St. Vincent Healthcare.
Dr. Bush says St. James in Butte offered the free testing to their employees at the end of June and July 7th, with all of their results coming back negative for the virus.
According to Dr. Bush, St. Vincent Healthcare in Billings will offer the voluntary testing for employees and staff members Monday through Friday, over the next two weeks, and Holy Rosary Healthcare in Miles City is starting their testing soon.
"This helps us, along with the work the public health is doing, with the testing they did a couple weeks ago and are doing again tomorrow, we'll have a better handle on what the penetration in the asymptomatic population in our community is.", said Dr. Bush.
Dr. Neil Ku of Billings Clinic says they are also offering the free testing to their employees Monday, "To get an idea of the prevalence of the infection with not just in the Billings Clinic, but in our community, and it will certainly help us guide many of our public health policies and decisions.", said Dr. Ku.
Dr. Ku says through contact tracing, they know there has not been any spread of the virus in their hospital, and all positive patients or employees contacted the disease through the public.
I reached out to Bozeman Health who says they are still deciding if they will offer the free employee testing in their facilities, "We have considered all the counter measures possible to decrease exposure, surveillance testing is something that we're looking into and are reviewing the new evidence that is coming out to support that.", said Kallie Kujawa, System Director of Quality and Safety for Bozeman Health.
Though not all hospitals have started the surveillance testing, each health care professional agrees about the effective ways to prevent the spread of the virus, "Masking and good hand washing, those are the hallmarks of making sure that we're not spreading the disease.", said Dr. Bush.