Interior Health drops all COVID-19 rapid tests at facilities

Click to play video: 'Interior Health stops use of COVID-19 rapid tests'
Interior Health stops use of COVID-19 rapid tests
Millions of COVID-19 rapid tests have been put to use -- since they first became available back in February 2022. But now, one of the province's health authorities says those tests aren't accurate enough for a clinical diagnosis – Jan 10, 2024

Interior Health (IH) has completely withdrawn its COVID-19 rapid antigen tests (RAT) from its facilities.

This is according to an internal memo obtained by Global News.

“(The rapid tests) are not reliable for diagnosis of COVID-19,” the memo stated.

“As such COVID-19 RAT testing can no longer be used to direct clinical care or infection prevention and control measures, and must be discontinued immediately in Interior Health affiliated emergency rooms, hospitals, long-term care facilities (and) outpatient settings.”

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Interior Health (IH) said on Nov. 21, 2023, the BCCDC and Provincial Laboratory Medicine services issued a memo stating that the BCCDC oversight of COVID-19 RAT has been withdrawn.

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The health authority said, in the internal memo, that symptomatic patients who meet the indications for testing will get nasopharyngeal swabs to get tested at its microbiology lab.

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Also, symptomatic health-care workers no longer require COVID-19 RAT testing, either.

IH health-care workers will follow the provincial guidelines to return to work after any viral respiratory illnesses.

COVID-19 RAT testing is still available in the community.

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According to Dr. Brian Conway, who is the Vancouver Infectious Diseases Centre’s medical director, the move to the PCR test is the right thing to do, as it is far more accurate.

“(The PCR) test … we have always known is more sensitive and more reliable,” he said.

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Dr. Conway said the rapid tests still have “huge value.”

“Huge value, huge value. We’re not diagnosing much of the COVID that is being transmitted in the community,” he told Global News.

“If you’re at home (and) you have symptoms (and) you test positive on a rapid test — you have COVID … we’re going to address that appropriately.”

Global News spoke with B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix regarding the RAT testing.

This was an update for workers in Interior Health. We’re using PCR tests as we are in other places (and) those tests can pick up other things and then just say COVID-19,” Dix told Global News.

“It’s a health care decision, and it’s the most efficient way to do it, and the most efficient way to track what’s going on in our health care facilities in terms of infectious diseases.”

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