Michelle Marina has been tested for COVID-19 three times, but has only received one set of results — and she’s frustrated that she can’t get the answers she needs in a timely fashion.
She got tested at Humber River Hospital’s Church Street assessment centre and has had to wait more than two weeks for her results. The 14-day self-isolation window came and went and Marina still doesn’t know if she has the novel coronavirus.
“I’m just curious to know what happened to the results,” an exasperated Marina told CBC Toronto.
She is among at least two dozen people who got tested at the Church Street assessment centre and have had to wait around two weeks to get answers. She’s also just one among many Ontarians who’ve either had to wait for results, or have had trouble getting tested, as the surging number of cases in the province’s various COVID-19 hotspots has led to major testing backlogs. That, in turn, has made contact tracing difficult and in some cases impossible.
Ontario Health says its “test result turnaround target” for the provincial COVID-19 lab network is 80 per cent of tests within two days. But that hasn’t been Marina’s experience the last couple of times she’s been screened.
In late September, Marina’s kids weren’t feeling well so she got tested for the novel coronavirus along with them. They all tested negative. But a week later, she developed a high fever, cough and congestion and went for another test at Toronto Western Hospital.
When she checked online for her results she was informed her specimen had been “spilled in transit.”
University Health Network spokesperson Gillian Howard says while specimens are capped at the assessment centres, the centres themselves don’t transport them. She says if a specimen arrives at a lab and the cap isn’t intact, it would be considered spoiled and not tested.
After not receiving a result from that test, Marina went to the Humber River Hospital’s Church Street assessment centre near Jane and Highway 401 on Oct. 2.
After two weeks of waiting, she still hadn’t got her results. She learned through a community Facebook page that several others who were tested at the same place were also waiting.
“It’s frustrating,” Marina said.
“I help my sister’s family out quite a bit. My sister has passed away, so there are three young children,” she added.
“And I help my mother. I haven’t been able to see her because I wanted to be positive that I didn’t have it because she’s 65.
“There’s no point in me getting tested again. I’m already outside of the 14-day quarantine period. Would it be nice to know if I had COVID? Yes.”
In a statement provided to CBC Toronto Friday afternoon, Humber River Hospital said the delay in making results available online was due to a “routing issue.” The hospital said the typical turnaround time for results is three-to-five days.
The hospital said the issue was resolved Friday and all delayed results were online.
But as of Friday afternoon, Marina still didn’t know if she contracted the virus. Her results had yet to be posted online.
Family received results from MPPs’ office
Robyn Moreno also wasn’t able to get access to results after the hospital said the issue was fixed.
Her two sons got tested at Humber River Hospital’s Church Street assessment centre on Oct. 1 and 3. After about a week of waiting and not getting answers, she contacted her local MPP’s office.
On Friday morning, the office called and told her they received her son’s results via fax; they both tested negative. But, as of Friday, she was still waiting to see the results herself online.
“It’s very frustrating,” she said.
Her two sons haven’t been able to attend school in-person, which has been especially difficult for her eldest son who is in the dance program at Centennial College.
“What’s the whole point of going in for tests if you don’t even get the results until after the quarantine time? There’s no point. It defeats the whole purpose,” she said.
Faisal Hassan, NDP MPP for York South-Weston, says he received more than 25 complaints in a week about people waiting for test results from the Church Street assessment centre.
He says residents were concerned that without a result, they couldn’t return to work, go to school, or visit and provide essential care to loved ones in long-term care homes.
“We have been [identified] as a hotspot area and these delays are totally unacceptable,” he said.
“It’s forcing people to stay in isolation and they’re unable to earn a living.
He says the delay “risks making community transmission even worse.”
In an email sent Friday evening to CBC News, Ontario Health says “it appears 128 results were delayed in being posted to the public portal” between Sept. 28 and Oct. 7.
“All results have been posted on the public portal today,” the email reads.
In an earlier statement, Ontario Health said it’s continuing to expand the provincial lab network’s capacity to process tests by adding new lab capacity, securing key supplies, technology and staff.