Central Jersey doctor forced to stop coronavirus drive-thru testing
EWING — One of the drive-thru COVID-19 testing centers opened by an urgent care center was closed by its landlord and another threatened by a local board of health, according to the care center's owner.
Dr. Seeta Arjun, CEO of InFocus Urgent Care, told New Jersey 101.5 that she set up the the centers at two of her three locations at CampusTown in Ewing and in West Windsor. The Ewing location was ideal because the restaurants could only offer takeout per Gov. Phil Murphy's executive order, leaving the parking lots empty, Arjun said.
The Ewing Department of Health offered to partner with her as they had the resources and equipment needed to conduct the tests and one of her neighboring tenants, including one that set up a tent to protect her employees from the rain, Arjun said.
Patients were swabbed while in their cars but not every patient showed signs of COVID-19.
"If someone had what looked like tonsillitis, they got an antibiotic. If someone came in and said they had a rash on their face, they got to come into the urgent care center," Arjun said.
Arjun said that she was trying to follow the guidance of the CDC and isolate patients to keep other patients safe.
"In Ewing, my landlord sent me a cease-and-desist letter on Monday and told me I couldn't do what I was doing," Arjun said.
"Now they are telling me they are going to terminate my lease. It cost me over $500,000 to do the construction on that property and I am not allowed to use my space. I don't even know if I am allowed to walk on the sidewalk because if I am using exterior space including the road I cannot practice medicine. I cannot see these people who need us right now," Arjun said.
PRC Group of West Long Branch, the owner of the property, said that they are supportive of Arjun's testing efforts but that "Campus Town is not the place for these expansive testing operations."
PRC said that during testing on Sunday, a positive COVID-19 test was discovered and the testing was being done on space that InFocus was not supposed to use.
PRC offered Arjun the former Lanning School across from Campus Town on Route 31 at no charge as an alternative location for testing because it has a larger parking lot and allowed for better traffic flow. Arjun turned down the offer because she was the only doctor on site and if she were away from the office, she could not see other patients.
There was also a concern about whether her malpractice insurance would cover her when she is across the street.
"That's a big worry for me. I cannot take that liability on my own. I cannot accept that responsibility without knowing that I have that coverage to test and evaluate and treat outside my space that is insured," Arjun said.
PRC said the situation got worse on Monday with the installation of a tent and signage creating traffic that blocked roads and parking spaces. Residents who live at Campus Town and those coming to the businesses were concerned about possible exposure to COVID-19.
"The businesses that were open were forced to close because customers and workers did not want to be infected," PMC said in a written statement.
"Our own staff, without having the protection of the hazmat suits worn by medical staff, was forced to pick up medical waste left on the ground by InFocus staff and clean trash receptacles containing waste from patients," PMC said.
Arjun said she has since closed the Ewing location and is frustrated that she cannot see patients who need her.
"We are here to see patients both in the good times and the bad. This is a bad time and people don't know where to go. And they're here and I don't have answers. I don't know what to do," Arjun said.
She said that her West Windsor landlord, Cyzner Properties, threatened to send police and the Department of Health to stop the testing.
Cyzner Properties, Ewing Mayor Bert Steinmann and West Windsor Health Officer Jill Swanson did not return requests seeking comment on Thursday afternoon.
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