COVID-19 tests reach saturation point

While Quebec records its worst daily number of new COVID-19 cases, the timelines are lengthening in terms of detection. Both waiting at centers or before getting an appointment and waiting before getting a test result increased in several regions this week.

In the metropolitan area, several test centers were raided on Friday. In Montreal, the center of the Olympic Stadium was packed for the second day in a row. “This is the second time we’ve turned after three hours of waiting,” Martin Patenaude-Monette is desperate.

Her two-year-old son has had close contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19 at the early childhood center he attends.

“As adults, we could have expected more, but with a young child, no toiletries, and no lunch, it’s unmanageable,” he explains. Illustrator and popularizer of science, says he “totally agrees” with health guidelines: “But if the exam is not followed, people who don’t care run the risk of dropping the exam,” he slips.

The CIUSSS de l’Est-de-l’Île-de-Montréal recognizes that waiting times “can be up to three hours at certain times of the day, depending on the detection center,” says a communications advisor at Duty.

Elsewhere, the detection capacity had to be increased after a hectic week. The CIUSSS de l’Ouest-de-l’Île-de-Montréal is currently conducting 3,000 tests per day “to meet the growing demand,” explains public relations manager Hélène Bergeron-Gamache. That’s double the usual capacity of 1,750 tests per day.

Results are reported within a maximum of four days after a test, he continued. This delay was more like 24 to 48 hours in other regions, Le Devoir noted.

Everywhere in Quebec

In Lévis you have to wait more than two days before making an appointment. There is also an open outpatient clinic, but it is impossible to know the waiting time there, unless you go there.

Same story at Lac-Mégantic, Sainte-Marie, Saint-Georges, Beauceville and Thetford Mines: you’ll have to be patient until Monday, or even Tuesday, to be eligible for a test.

You have to go to the east of the province to find the rare exceptions. Rivière-du-Loup, Rimouski and Gaspésie; Several sites offered dates on the same Friday night.

Laval’s CISSS, which has faced “exceptional traffic” since the beginning of the week, also had to warn citizens that it could take up to four days before receiving its result.

Analysis capacity was surpassed earlier in the week, when a record 10,000 samples were sent to the lab. “Our analysis capacity is more like 7000 samples per day,” Laval CISSS spokeswoman Judith Goudreau told Le Devoir.

This same laboratory serves three regions, namely Laval, Laurentides and Lanaudière. On Friday, the maximum time was reduced to three days to obtain a result, an “encouraging” sign, continues Ms Gaudreau. Up to 30% of people who are tested in Laval come from other regions, it also indicates.

The southern ring of the metropolis is experiencing a similar saturation of its detection system. In Sorel, the delays to get an appointment are up to six days, confirmed communications advisor Marianne Paquette, from the CISSS de la Montérégie-Est. In Saint-Hyacinthe and Boucherville, you have to wait two days.

The CISSS de la Montérégie-Ouest says it maintains its capacity between 750 to 1,000 tests per day, with delays of up to three days to make an appointment. Mobile clinics are added as needed “to cover [son] big territory, ”spokeswoman Jade St-Jean said by phone.

Towards relief?

These two Montérégie divisions are also seeking to recruit more “scouts” for their centers. The group is often made up of retirees, Ms. Paquette explains, and availability has decreased in recent weeks; “Fatigue or the return of different job titles in their respective work areas” influenced the workforce, he said.

“The rapid test distribution is also expected to decrease the number of passengers,” adds Ms St-Jean.

Around 1,900 pharmacies will begin distributing five rapid screening tests per person for free starting next Monday. However, a person who obtains a positive result must go to a collection center to validate the result.

The Department of Health and Human Services is also counting on this distribution to “unlock screening centers,” writes a public relations official by email. Despite the “great detection capacity,” he says, certain regions, such as eastern municipalities, are at their maximum capacity.

Rapid tests began to be used in rows to classify negative tests at various sites, including the Hôtel-Dieu de Montréal and the CIUSSS de la Capitale-Nationale.

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