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Waterloo hospitals working to alleviate increased COVID-19 testing wait times

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Since last Friday, there have been 6,952 COVID-19 tests conducted in Waterloo Region, a large jump over the previous seven days in which there were 2,722 tests reported.

With the rise in tests, area hospitals confirm that there has been a rise in wait times as well.

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The three area hospitals each run testing centres and a fourth is run out of a clinic in Waterloo.

The hospitals say they are doing everything they can in an attempt to alleviate wait times.

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The drive-thru testing centre is currently testing at Kitchener’s Grand River Hospital (GRH) and conducting almost twice as many tests per day as it was designed to, according to Cheryl Evans, a hospital spokesperson.

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“In August, our average tests per day were 400. For the last nine days, our average daily volumes have been 562,” she explained.

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Evans said a new overflow lot is full as soon as the testing centre opens and advises those that should book a test at one of the other clinics in the area, so as to not be left waiting at the drive-thru clinic.

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“We have implemented an overflow lot to accept more cars and increase efficiency but still have a finite space to work within,” she explained.

“Be patient. Be kind. Everyone is doing the very best they can to ensure that we are able to test the most community members as quickly and efficiently as possible,” she said.

Down the road at Cambridge Memorial Hospital (CMH), extra staff were brought on board in an attempt to deal with rising demand at the appointment-only location.

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Earlier this week hospital spokesperson Stephan Beckhoff said they were conducting about 120 tests per day but they are hoping they can push that number up to 180 with the added help.

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That said, he noted that those calling for an appointment could be waiting a few days before they can get in for a test.

“When someone calls, priority is given to those who are symptomatic, in an outbreak or children,” he explained.

“These people could be seen the same day or the next. For people who are asymptomatic, the wait could be two or three days. Likely three now, that testing has increased.”

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He says that CMH is considering implementing a drive-thru clinic in an effort to abate the rising demand.

Kitchener’s other hospital, St Mary’s General Hospital SMGH, has also seen an increase in calls for its services.

“This week we hit record number of visits,” SMGH spokesperson Arianna Ongaro told Global News Friday morning. “Yesterday the team tested upwards of 150 people and wait times peaked at two hours.”

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She said that part of the delay is because more families are bringing children into the hospital’s testing clinic.

“It can take a bit longer to swab children as we want to ease some of their potential fear and anxiety,” Ongarro explained. “When children know what to expect they are less hesitant and it is a more positive experience for them.”

She pointed out that staff are always monitoring the situation to look for ways to minimize wait times.

“Our team at the testing clinic is working hard to meet the needs of the community and we are currently reviewing volumes and adding resources where necessary,” Ongarro stated.