Penn State Health St. Joseph Medical Center in Bern Township - Emergency

BERN TWP., Pa. — Penn State Health issued an urgent plea to the public on Thursday: Don't go to its hospitals' emergency departments for a routine COVID-19 test.

In recent days, the health system said it has seen an influx of patients, including those who are asymptomatic, seeking to be tested for the coronavirus at St. Joseph Medical Center's emergency room in Bern Township and the ERs of its other hospitals in the region.

"People seeking COVID-19 tests at the emergency department when they are not sick place a tremendous burden on the medical staff's ability to treat patients who need emergent care," said Dr. Peter Dillon, chief clinical officer, Penn State Health.

The health system said its emergency departments and others across the state are experiencing hours-long waits due to an excessive volume of patients.

"We are asking for the public's help during this time of high demand for care by seeking the medical care they need from the most appropriate places, and only using their local emergency department for true emergent needs," Dillon said.

Since late-November, the state has been operating a COVID-19 testing site on the parking lot of the Directlink building, which is located almost directly across Route 183 from St. Joe's.

COVID-19 testing site in Bern Township

The drive-thru site will reopen next Tuesday, Jan. 4, and remain in operation through at least Jan. 8. The state's acting health secretary, Keara Klinepeter, told 69 News during a visit to the site on Wednesday that the state is considering a second extension of the clinic's operation. In the meantime, the clinic's hours are:

  • Tuesday, Jan. 4: 10 a.m. - 7 p.m.
  • Wednesday, Jan. 5: 10 a.m. - 7 p.m.
  • Thursday, Jan. 6: 10 a.m. - 7 p.m.
  • Friday, Jan. 7: 10 a.m. - 7 p.m.
  • Saturday, Jan. 8: 9 a.m. - 3 p.m.

Penn State Health said people who have COVID-19 symptoms can its OnDemand app for a virtual appointment to discuss their symptoms and determine whether they need testing. Current Penn State Health patients may also contact their primary care provider.

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