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UAMS struggles to meet Arkansans' need for COVID-19 tests

2022-1-4 Gov. Hutchinson and Dr. Patterson.jpg
KARK 4 News
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UAMS Chancellor Dr. Cam Patterson and Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson speak with reporters on Jan. 4, 2022.

One of the state’s largest hospital systems is receiving help from the National Guard to reduce wait times for COVID-19 tests.

Dr. Cam Patterson, Chancellor of the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, has requested aid from Gov. Asa Hutchinson to respond to an influx of Arkansans wanting COVID-19 tests.

“At our max, previously, we were doing in the 500s of tests,” Patterson said.

Yesterday, UAMS completed almost 700 tests and expects to continue to see a high demand, according to the chancellor.

“Last week we were having to shut down early because we had so many people lined up, we weren’t going to be able to bring everybody through,” said Patterson. He described this as the breaking point where UAMS realized it needed aid.

Hutchinson said that some Arkansans are discouraged by the lengthy wait and may decide against getting tested.

“We don’t want that to happen. We want to be able to have the testing available for Arkansans,” said the governor.

In order to assist UAMS workers with testing and lessen the wait time, Hutchinson greeted a dozen National Guardsmen at a drive-thru testing site Tuesday to thank them for providing aid.

“Another big challenge that we’re having is we’ve got over 800 of our UAMS workers who are on work restriction,” Patterson said, “Having the guardsmen here really helps us ensure that we can keep these lines moving.”

Hutchinson said the state hopes to receive 1.5 million COVID-19 at home testing kits to help prevent these long lines. PCR tests are working effectively according to the governor.

“The supply chain is there. We are not experiencing any shortages. It’s not a matter of we don’t have enough testing supplies when it comes to PCR. But, as this goes on, people need at-home capability,” he said.

Both Patterson and Hutchinson said testing was a valuable asset to making beneficial decisions about healthcare.

“A couple hundred additional tests today keeps a couple of hundred families safe,” said Patterson.

Remington Miller was an intern at KUAR News as part of the George C. Douthit Endowed Scholarship program. She later worked as a reporter and editor for the station.