New Brunswick woman wants to get a strep A test. It’s proving to be difficult

Click to play video: 'New Brunswick woman upset because she can’t get strep A test'
New Brunswick woman upset because she can’t get strep A test
WATCH: A New Brunswick woman says she was unable to get tested for Strep A despite her numerous calls to pharmacies and after-hours clinics. As Suzanne Lapointe reports, calls are being made for greater and more timely accessibility. – Feb 1, 2024

Early testing is key to treating an aggressive form of strep A that has already claimed the lives of five New Brunswickers this year.

But getting tested, it seems, isn’t that easy.

A Turtle Creek, N.B., woman says she has been unable to get testing for Group A streptococcus — a bacterial infection — despite her numerous calls to pharmacies and after-hour clinics.

Amanda Maillet wanted to have her 11-year-old son tested as quickly as possible, when he started feeling ill with a sore throat and fever on Sunday. If caught early, strep A can be treated with antibiotics.

She says she called both Moncton-area pharmacies that provide tests, but was told she couldn’t obtain one.

“They do not have any available appointments, and I need to get a referral from a practitioner from a walk-in clinic or a visit, or my own family doctor,” she said.

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“So it’s just proving to be a roundabout way (of not being) able to access any of these services, these health-care services, in a timely manner.”

She called their family doctor after hours, but couldn’t get through. Short of going to the ER, she says she had no other options to get a test.

Her son has since recovered, but in the days following, Maillet developed symptoms of her own. Now, she’s found herself in the same predicament and can’t book a test for herself.

Click to play video: 'New Brunswick woman speaks out after husband’s death from strep A'
New Brunswick woman speaks out after husband’s death from strep A

Maillet had tried virtual medical visits for her son a few times, but was denied the strep A test. She ended up booking an e-visit for herself for her own symptoms, and was told Thursday morning by a New Brunswick practitioner that she likely didn’t need a test or antibiotics, but she still wants that peace of mind.

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“Not being able to access appropriate health care measures such as strep A test causes me a great deal of anxiety, for myself, my family, and just for the general public as well,” she said.

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As a last resort, Maillet says she tried to book an appointment at a private clinic at the cost of $160 for a test, but was told they were booked up until Monday.

“It’s very frustrating to have to pay out of pocket for health care within our province and our country. It’s just goes against our system,” she said.

A spokesperson for the New Brunswick Pharmacists’ Association told Global News that a referral is not needed for a strep A test at the province’s six pharmacies that provide the service. However, demand has become overwhelming.

Earlier this week, the association said 200 tests had been conducted at the six pharmacies as of last Friday. The most recent numbers showed 107 confirmed cases of strep A since the beginning of January.

The pharmacies providing the tests are Pharmacist Care Clinic pilot locations that are also helping patients manage other health concerns, including diabetes, COPD and asthma.

“Pharmacists cannot simply begin offering Strep A testing at more pharmacies because our ability to offer the tests is limited to the terms of this pilot,” said Anne Marie Picone, interim executive director of the New Brunswick Pharmacists’ Association, in a statement.

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A spokesperson from the province’s Department of Health acknowledged there are “limited appointments available at the participating pharmacies.”

“It should be noted that the assessment and treatment of Group A strep is not within the scope of practice for pharmacists in most Canadian provinces,” wrote spokesperson Sean Hatchard.

“New Brunswick, Nova Scotia (both in pilot projects) and Alberta are the only provinces at this time where pharmacists offer Group A strep assessment, point-of-care testing and prescription.”

Hatchard said the department will be conducting a “comprehensive, independent evaluation of the pilot” in early fall.

Meanwhile, treatment and assessment for Group A streptococcus is available through primary care providers, which includes eVisitNB and NB Health Link, or after-hour clinics

All this is little consolation to Maillet, who is still recovering from her illness.

“It simply puts a lot of people at risk,” she said.

Click to play video: 'Strep A cases on the rise in the Maritimes'
Strep A cases on the rise in the Maritimes

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