South Peninsula Hospital employees remove COVID-19 testing signs from South Peninsula Hospital test site Friday Jan. 13, 2023. (Photo from Derotha Ferraro/South Peninsula Hospital)

South Peninsula Hospital employees remove COVID-19 testing signs from South Peninsula Hospital test site Friday Jan. 13, 2023. (Photo from Derotha Ferraro/South Peninsula Hospital)

South Peninsula Hospital closes COVID test and vaccine site

In its peak, the test and vaccine site employed 15 people, and was averaging 100-150 swabs a day

South Peninsula Hospital on Friday closed its COVID test and vaccine site, which had been located on Bartlett Street in a building just below the hospital.

During the time the site was in operation, the clinic received more than 15,000 vaccine consent receipts and provided over 50,000 nasal swabs. At one point, the clinic was so busy they were using a second pop-up facility in the Public Health parking lot.

In its peak, the test and vaccine site employed 15 people, and was averaging 100-150 swabs a day.

On Friday, there was a single swab test at the location.

“What a difference a year makes,” Anna Leewald, infection prevention nurse and COVID clinic supervisor for the hospital, said. “We did two tests on Jan. 12 and one on the 13th.”

In the first year of COVID — from March to October of 2020 — the testing site was a tent beside the main entrance to the hospital. From 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. people could visit the site for a nasal swab test.

By October, the hospital had moved into the lower building so clients could just pull up into the parking lot and dial the phone number on the sign. The hospital would register them over the phone. Clients would then wait in their car until staff would call them back on their cellphone and direct them to which window to go. They signed a consent form and then were handed the swab with directions on how to use it.

From the test site, swabs went directly to the hospital lab.

The rest of the site was used as a vaccination site or as a place to receive a MAB, monoclonal antibody infusion.

John Bishop, SPH purchasing technician, said a decline in demand for tests outside Homer may have affected traffic at the site.

“It really helps that it slowed down up north, too,” he said. “At the very beginning, we were getting a lot of overspill. We had a lot of people coming down to use our stand-up swab sites.”

Leewald said because the facilities at the Homer clinic “were pretty easy to use” the clinic was not just serving locals.

” … In the summer when people were traveling or had family visiting, it was more convenient here than other places,” she said. “COVID testing was kind of chronically inaccessible to people without a provider or finding a way to pay for it. Homer offered it free until July.”

The facility had clients who would make their way to Homer for a COVID test because they knew they needed it for a flight home and heard that the convenience of the facility would be easier to deal with than finding the service in Anchorage, Leewald said.

“A lot of our clients were tourists.”

Gear used at the clinic is being redistributed to other departments of the hospital or may be provided to Kachemak Bay Campus for training, Leewald said.

“We’re just trying to reorganize it into inventory. There are many remaining vaccine supplies such as syringes and alcohol swabs,” Leewald said.

The hospital has not yet confirmed what they will use the building for. The upstairs will be the speciality clinic and the family care clinic.

The hospital is still wearing masks for patient care but for office work employees masks were no longer mandated as of October.

Emilie Springer can be reached at emilie.springer@homernews.com.

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