Indianz.Com > COVID-19 > VIDEO: Coronavirus Testing at Indian Health Service
Posted: March 22, 2020

How does the Indian Health Service test patients for the coronavirus? It’s a question on the minds of many in Indian Country.

Efforts by the Navajo Area of the IHS offer some guidance. According to Dr. Loretta Christensen, the Chief Medical Officer for the region, the IHS has been utilizing “commercial labs” to conduct testing.

A nasopharyngeal swab is taken of the patient, Christensen said. Such swabs are used for the detection of respiratory viruses, like the coronavirus.

The swab is then sent to one of the commercial labs, said Christensen, who named three of them in Arizona and New Mexico.

“We then have to wait for them to run those tests,” Christensen said at a press conference hosted by the Navajo Nation on March 18, 2020.

“We don’t get that result for two to four days, unfortunately,” Christensen added.

Christensen said a method is being developed that would enable on-site testing, meaning quicker results.

If the method is made available, Christensen said three IHS facilities are able to conduct such testing: Gallup Indian Medical Center in Gallup, New Mexico; Chinle Comprehensive Health Care Facility in Chinle, Arizona; and Northern Navajo Medical Center in Shiprock, New Mexico.

According to Christensen, the Fort Defiance Indian Hospital in Fort Defiance, Arizona, also known as the Tsehootsooi Medical Center, is also capable. The facility is run by the Navajo Nation under a self-determination contract.

Indianz.Com has asked the Indian Health Service about testing capabilities in other areas of Indian Country. A response hasn’t been received as of the evening on Sunday, March 22, 2020.

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