Testing delays cause some Hamilton residents to return for repeat COVID-19 assessments

Hamilton's assessment centres are testing about 450 every day for the novel coronavirus, which the city's medical officer of health says is well above capacity.
Hamilton's assessment centres are testing about 450 every day for the novel coronavirus, which the city's medical officer of health says is well above capacity. Lisa Polewski / 900 CHML

Hamilton’s medical officer of health says delays in residents receiving their COVID-19 test results have led to reports of some people going to get tested a second time.

Dr. Elizabeth Richardson said she’s heard from some residents that it can take up to 10 days — even longer, in some cases — for results to come back.

While she said it’s understandable that people are frustrated, she urged residents not to visit those assessment centres repeatedly to get tested a second time, saying it doesn’t make the results come back any quicker.

“In fact, what they end up doing is adding to the burden that is going on within the laboratory system in terms of getting the results processed,” said Richardson.

“So rather than improving their turnaround time, they very well could be increasing that time that it takes because of increasing further the backlog, and duplicate records, and confusion in the system.”

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Richardson said part of what is likely adding to the frustration caused by the delay is that the province requires relatives who want to visit loved ones in long-term care facilities to have tested negative for COVID-19 within the previous two weeks.

“When it comes to people trying to visit their loved ones and the testing, it is understandably very frustrating that it’s taking this long to get the results,” said Richardson.

“I don’t think this is a situation that anybody would want to have happen.”

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It’s unclear why it’s taking so long for results to come back, and Richardson said they’re working with the Ministry of Health, as well as Ontario Health — which is in charge of posting those results on the online portal — to understand why there’s such a delay.

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In an email to Global News on Thursday morning, a representative for Ontario Health said their data shows that test turnaround times for the West region remain in-line with those of the rest of the province.

“The targets for test turnaround are 60% next day and 80% within two days,” the Ontario Health spokesperson wrote. “Once processed, results are released back to the ordering clinician and entered into the provincial lab reporting system (OLIS), and are made available to the patient through the provincial portal/viewer.”

“In some cases where clinician requisitions are missing information, the results may not appear in the patient portal. We’re working to understand if this or other factors may have contributed to potential delays with respect to people getting their results.”

When asked about significantly delayed test results during Wednesday’s provincial media update, Health Minister Christine Elliott said the province is averaging about 96 per cent of its COVID-19 test results returning within 24 hours, with the remainder coming back within 48 hours.

She said it’s “not acceptable” for results to take more than 10 days to come back and suggested those who are seeing delays of that length of time to contact their local public health unit.

“If that doesn’t work out, certainly they’re welcome to contact me at the Ministry of Health and we will follow up to understand what’s happening,” said Elliott.

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Locally, Richardson said public health does not have access to negative test results any quicker than individuals and are only contacted by Ontario’s public health laboratory if someone tests positive so that they can follow-up with those cases as part of the public health contract tracing process.

“When it comes to cases, we are seeing a faster set of results on positive cases and those are being faxed to us. And I think that’s part of it, is that they’re handled a little bit differently than the negatives are, from what we see.”

Hamilton’s assessment centres are testing about 450 people every day.

Over the past 10 days, only 19 people in Hamilton have tested positive for the novel coronavirus.

Hamilton reports no new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday

Hamilton, Ont., reported no new coronavirus cases on Wednesday, which puts the city’s overall number of cases as of July 8 at 855, with 847 confirmed and eight probable, according to public health.

The city has no current institutional outbreaks and no COVID-19 patients at either St. Joe’s or Hamilton Health Sciences hospitals.

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To date, 779 of the city’s known COVID-19 cases — 91 per cent — have been resolved.

There were no new reported deaths on Wednesday, holding the total coronavirus-related deaths at 44. Thirty-four of the city’s deaths are connected to an institutional outbreak.

Niagara Region reports no new COVID-19 cases

Niagara public health officials reported no new coronavirus cases on Wednesday. The region has 768 total cases, with 26 of them active.

The region reported no new deaths, leaving the overall total at 61, with 50 tied to long-term care or retirement homes.

The region has two institutional outbreaks including the Garden City Manor long-term care home in St. Catharines.

Eighty-eight per cent (681) of Niagara’s cases have been resolved.

Haldimand-Norfolk reports no new COVID-19 cases 

Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit (HNHU) reported no new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday and the region sits at 444 lab-confirmed, positive cases.

Officials say 381 of those patients have since recovered.

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The region has 32 COVID-19-connected deaths with 27 tied to residents at Anson Place Care Centre, a nursing home, in Hagersville.

Halton Region reports 4 new COVID-19 cases

Halton Region reported four new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday. The region now has 866 cases, including 783 confirmed positive and 83 probable cases.

The region still has 25 deaths tied to COVID-19 as of July 8, with 12 the result of an outbreak at an institution.

Public health says 790 cases, or more than 91 per cent, have been resolved.

The region has no institutional outbreaks as of Wednesday with the last outbreak declared over on Sunday at the Waterford long-term care home in Oakville.

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Seventy-nine of Halton’s total cases are connected to residents or patients in an institution.

Brant County reports no new COVID-19 cases

Brant County’s health unit (BCHU) reported no new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday. The region has 124 total confirmed cases as of July 8.

The county still has four deaths, with 119 total resolved cases. There is just a single COVID-19 patient currently in hospital.

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There are no institutional outbreaks.