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Enhanced Testing Order Calls out Large Healthcare Providers to Test More

Today, local elected leaders called out large healthcare providers HCA Healthcare, Kaiser Permanente and Sutter Palo Alto Medical Foundation, as well as other private hospitals. They accuse these providers of not pulling their own weight when it comes to testing. The County wants these providers to improve access to testing and increase testing capacity.

Mayors in the County shared their personal stories and stated how disturbed they were that hospitals make it difficult to get a test or even turn their members away.

Today, County Public Health Officer Dr. Sara Cody issued a new 2020 Healthcare Provider Testing Order. The order goes into effect on Friday, Sept. 25 and replaces the County’s June 10 testing order. The order expands the number of essential workers entitled to testing. It also requires that testing is easy and quick and requires healthcare providers to inform their patients about how to access testing.

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The Order requires certain healthcare providers within the county to offer COVID-19 diagnostic testing to symptomatic persons, persons who have been exposed to a confirmed COVID-19 case, and all “essential workers.” The expanded definition of “essential workers” now includes teachers, healthcare workers, grocery store clerks, and persons who work in agriculture or food manufacturing.

The order is a legal requirement for large healthcare providers, which are subject to fines for noncompliance. According to County Counsel James R. Williams, enforcement is detailed in the Urgency Ordinance that was released on Aug. 11. According to that ordinance, these healthcare providers can accrue fines from $250 to $5,000 for each violation.

“The testing order requiring large healthcare systems to provide COVID-19 testing to essential workers and others has been in place since June 10, but we have been forced to take additional measures,” said Williams.

According to the County, large healthcare systems provide care to the majority of Santa Clara County residents, however, only provide a small percentage of the testing in the County. Santa Clara County’s own Santa Clara Valley Medical Center is handling the bulk of the testing. The County provided data to back up their concerns. The average number of tests from the most recent reporting week (Aug. 31 – Sept. 6) is as follows:

  • County of Santa Clara Health System: 13,072 tests
  • Kaiser Permanente: 4,261 tests
  • Stanford: 3,243 tests
  • Sutter Palo Alto Medical Foundation: 1,426 tests
  • El Camino Health: 679 tests
  • HCA Healthcare: 633 tests

Williams says that the expectations set for healthcare providers are attainable, and the County’s testing efforts prove that they are attainable.

Additionally, Williams described the new testing timelines. If someone requesting a test is symptomatic, has been exposed, and/or has been referred, they have the right to be tested immediately. If a non-symptomatic person is requesting a test, they have a right to get that test within three days. Results are due within three days. If they can’t provide the results fast enough, the healthcare provider needs to provide notice to the County and also create a corrective action plan.

Elected officials from across the County called upon large healthcare providers to comply with the revised testing order. Mayors from 10 cities voiced support for this new order. The mayors include the Mayors of Sunnyvale, San Jose, Milpitas, and more. Santa Clara Mayor Lisa Gillmor did not voice her support for the new order, according to the County. Santa Clara has a large Kaiser hospital in its City.

Dr. Cody emphasized that the reason Santa Clara County was able to reopen more sectors was due to the amount of testing they are doing. The County moved from the most-restrictive Purple Tier to the less-restrictive Red Tier recently because the State gave the County a credit because they are doing a noticeable amount of testing.

To be able to take advantage of more State credits and at least stay in the Red Tier, or hopefully reopen more, the County called on healthcare providers to test more because they are not pulling their weight.

“Our county is currently trending in the right direction, but additional testing is imperative for our community to effectively respond to COVID-19, and we can only get there as a community if our large healthcare providers do their part too,” said Dr. Cody.

Additionally, Dr. Cody says testing is our “eyes” and increased testing is critical to ensure that everyone who is infected and might be spreading COVID-19 knows their status, takes care of their health, and protects others by staying away.

“The more people who can easily get tested for COVID-19 by their healthcare providers the better chance we have to stay in the Red Tier or improve,” said President of the County of Santa Clara Board of Supervisors Cindy Chavez. “That means more children get back to school and more people get back to work.”

The Order can be found on the County’s website.

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