Vancouver Island residents still waiting days for COVID-19 tests
VICTORIA -- Peggy Proctor believes she has COVID-19 and has been calling the Island Health call centre every hour for three days trying to get an appointment for a test.
Proctor and her husband travelled to New Orleans before the pandemic started and developed symptoms once she got back home.
“I was really, really tired. I had a sore throat, a bit of a cough, some headaches,” she said. “It was like I would sleep all night really hard and wake up still feeling tired.”
Proctor felt better until three days ago when the symptoms came on full force.
“I would like to get tested and know what is making me ill, but I can’t get an appointment,” she said.
Island Health officials told CTV News they apologize for the frustration in getting through the phone lines and said the health authority is making significant changes.
“It was kind of a double-whammy with having our staff leave back to other functions and going through that process of recruitment, which always takes a while, and then having the demand for testing increase as well,” said vice-president of pandemic planning Victoria Schmid.
As of Tuesday, Island Health had eliminated the nurse assessment process, allowing people to get through quicker.
Island Health also added an online callback option and increased the number of people allowed on hold from 80 to 160.
“We’ve now increased that to 160 and are actively looking to increase that even further,” said Schmid.
A North Island father who reached out to CTV News but didn’t want to be identified said it took three days of calling before he could get a test for his 11-year-old son.
Another change that Island Health is looking into is similar to a walk-in clinic in Vancouver where people could drop in for appointments.
“We are actively looking at a solution right now that would enable people to pick an appointment time and then come in for that time,” said Schmid.
Proctor’s husband, who also wants to be tested, questions why this isn’t already in place.
“I think there is a problem here,” said Bill Nixon. “Here we are on the island and we can’t get tested. I think people should be able to go to their pharmacy, a COVID-19 centre, anywhere we have personnel who are qualified to give this test and get it done.”
Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry has defended the B.C.'s testing model but admitted it has been challenging for some call centres and clinics.
“Here in B.C., we’ve always been focused on making sure those people who actually need a test have it and have it available,” said Henry.
Proctor questioned if the number of positive cases in B.C. is accurate.
“If a person who is actually symptomatic can’t get tested, then how can their statistics be correct?" said Proctor. "It doesn't make sense to me.”
Island Health says it is confident the numbers are accurate.
“I recognize people are waiting a couple of days to get in for testing and that’s not ideal," said Schmid. "But at this point, I don’t feel that that is leading to an increase in cases given our cases remain very low based on the number of actual tests."
A total of 105 new COVID-19 cases in B.C. were diagnosed Tuesday, bringing the province’s total to 9,013 cases since the start of the pandemic.
Proctor was finally able to get through to the call centre on Tuesday afternoon after being on hold for two hours and is scheduled for a test on Friday.
Schmid said by Monday people should not spend more than 20 minutes on the phone waiting to get an appointment.
“We are confident we can hit that once we can get staff in place,” she said