Long waits for COVID-19 tests prompts Fraser Health to boost capacity

High-volume testing site promised for Fraser Northwest in the coming ‘days to weeks’

A new high-volume COVID-19 testing centre will be established in the Fraser Northwest area in the coming weeks to deal with substantially increased need, according to Fraser Health officials.

At a press conference Wednesday, CEO and president Dr. Victoria Lee confirmed the testing would be established in the “coming days to weeks” and information would be made available on the health authority’s website. However, she did not specify in which community the testing centre would be established.

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There are currently testing sites at a clinic in Port Coquitlam (Integrated Wellness on Lougheed Highway), at a clinic in New Westminster, and at a drive-through site in Burnaby, which will have additional lanes.

MORE PEOPLE SEEK TESTS

Among the reasons for increased demand are more people who are symptomatic as well as people who may have been exposed to the virus and are worried they may have the respiratory illness.

“We do have an increased number of cases, there are an increased number of people that are symptomatic, there’s an increased demand for workplace requirements or people who plan to travel or people who are curious based on exposures sites they have seen,” Dr. Lee said. 

Expanding testing capacity is part of a suite of new initiatives to handle increased demand for COVID-19 tests since the middle of last week, according to Dr. Lee.

In addition to expanding capacity at testing centres around Fraser Health, including Burnaby and Surrey, and Fraser Northwest, there will be a new centralized pre-booking and pre-registration program for COVID-19 assessment.

CENTRAL BOOKING 

Currently in development, this new program will provide telephone and online access to book appointments and access to user-friendly information about assessment centres and wait times.

Wait times have been a problem at a number of sites, Lee acknowledged, with some people waiting for up to three hours to get tested.

However, at the Tri-Cities COVID and Influenza Like Illness Assessment Clinic in PoCo people are asked to book ahead, using an online form.

A spokesperson for the clinic could not confirm if doctors had seen an increase in demand, however, the website notes that due to high volume the clinic could not accept walk-ins.

The Port Coquitlam assessment clinic has been operating locally since mid-June, when it moved from a location in New Westminster.

Coquitlam has seen some COVID-19 exposures in recent days and during the press conference health officials confirmed that companies will be notified if their establishment will be listed on its public exposure website.

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