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This Cumming-based medical provider has tested more than 300 patients for COVID-19
GHMS
Employees at Georgia Highlands Medical Services have performed more than 300 drive-thru COVID-19 tests for local patients. (Photo courtesy Georgia Highlands Medical Services).

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A Cumming-based health care provider has performed more than 300 tests for COVID-19 in the last month which have resulted in nearly 60 positive cases.

Officials with Georgia Highlands Medical Services — which serves insured, under-insured and uninsured patients — said as of Wednesday morning they have conducted 302 drive-thru tests, with 58 positive diagnoses and 190 negative. There are 54 cases still pending.

“We went through the process of self-quarantining staff, reconfiguring every location to focus on taking care of those who need coronavirus care and testing, as well as ensuring that we keep our well patients safe and maintain social distancing,” said Chief Medical Officer Dr. Swapna Madhavan in a statement.

GHMS began drive-thru tests for potential coronavirus patients at the Cumming Family Health Center, located at 260 Elm Street, along with its locations in Canton and Cartersville, on March 25 and started drive-thru testing and care at the Highlands Medical Plaza, located at 475 Tribble Gap Road, on April 7. 

“All sites now have completely different suites for the provision of care, and anyone who is sick or has respiratory issues is provided care and testing in the drive-thru setting,” Madhavan said. 

The centers have also changed how they do business to give providers a chance to see patients who cannot or should not be delayed care and lets staff test for the disease outside the facility. 

To continue seeing patients who are not suffering from COVID-19, GHMS has increased the use of telehealth services, which allows patients and healthcare providers to videoconference to discuss medical issues. 

“We are currently seeing more and more patients take advantage of the telehealth availability," said CEO Todd Shifflet. "Through this service, all of our patients can freely initiate a request for a telehealth visit with his or her provider at any GHMS locations.”

Employees have also had to make changes, such as working extra hours and being away from family, but Shifflet said employees continue to have high morale. 

“Most of all, I’d really like staff to be recognized. They have shown true compassion and poise through all of this,” he said. “Everybody is saying now what I have known all along – those working on the front lines in health care, especially those providing care to the most vulnerable among us – they are the true heroes in this world. The staff at Georgia Highlands are absolutely terrific. They more than deserve as much honor and recognition as they can get.” 

Shifflet also applauded the community for helping the centers obtain much-needed personal protective equipment, which has been in short supply nationwide.

“Although, we have struggled to get PPE through our regular suppliers or through the National Stockpile, the local community has been tremendous,” said Shifflet. “James McCoy at the Chamber, the United Way, GANT Medical and so many others who have really stepped up. I’ve literally picked up scattered PPE from several people’s front porches, local businesses, loading docks, etc. over the past couple of weeks. This is a wonderful community.”