The number of community pharmacies in Alberta offering asymptomatic COVID-19 testing has grown, though the names and locations of the pharmacies remain inaccessible to the public.
The provincial government confirmed to Global News on Tuesday that there are now approximately 40 pharmacies in Alberta providing the test, up from 20 when the pilot launched June 25.
The names and locations of the 20 pharmacies where asymptomatic testing was initially offered have not been released, and Alberta Health spokesperson Tom McMillan said details of which new pharmacies have been added to the list will also remain under wraps for now.
“We are finalizing the feedback from the pilot sites to refine the program processes and will be posting a list in the coming weeks of available pharmacy sites across the province,” McMillan said in a statement.
On June 30, Global News asked Alberta Health why information about the participating pharmacies was not being released to the public. McMillan said that they did not want pharmacies to be overwhelmed by demand.
McMillan said Albertans could call their local pharmacy to ask whether asymptomatic testing was being offered.
On July 13, Global News again inquired why the details about which pharmacies offered testing was not being shared with the public.
“We wanted to make sure those particular locations didn’t get overwhelmed with demand as they were working out those early processes,” said Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw.
“We are looking now at having a process where those pharmacies that have been participating and anymore that come online can be listed so that again, that work is underway to be able to do that. That will hopefully help Albertans know which pharmacies are participating.”
“We wanted to make sure that the pilot program is working without those pharmacies being overwhelmed,” said Health Minister Tyler Shandro in response to the question.
“But also to make the point that these pharmacies are not replacement for the assessment centres and the work that is being done there.”
McMillan said testing will be made available at more pharmacies in the near future.
Testing at pharmacies will not be facilitated through 811, although 811 and the online assessment tool can be used to set up appointments for both symptomatic and asymptomatic testing.