When East Toronto resident Chelsea Kennedy and her husband started exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19 she suspected could be seasonal allergies, she decided it would be best to get tested just to be safe.
“I have a runny nose and I have a bit of a sore throat and coughing … this happened to me at the same time last year … and my husband is feeling a little low energy,” she said.
Kennedy went to Michael Garron Hospital’s COVID-19 assessment centre Tuesday morning, fully expecting a long wait.
“We got there at 10:20 a.m. and the clinic opened at 10 a.m. so we weren’t that late and we joined the line and it was almost at Sammon Avenue where they’re having construction,” she said.
She hadn’t realized the lineup continued all the way past the hospital’s main entrance to the north side of the building.
“I thought that the line was going into the front door of the hospital so I thought this is great we’re going to be in and out,” she laughed.
Nevertheless, Kennedy decided they would wait it out.
She volunteers with the Girl Guides of Canada and wanted to be sure she’s not sick with COVID-19 before the first group meeting.
“It was seven hours of waiting in line for a COVID test,” she said, adding, “I think it’s asking a lot for seven hours. That’s a long time.”
Sarah Downey, president and CEO of Michael Garron Hospital, told Global News in a statement, “I share the concerns about the longer wait times and line-ups that have resulted.”
Downey pointed out the centre is seeing 700 patients per day for testing, up from 400 per day in August and 300 per day in July.
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She also said with the increase in demand for COVID-19 tests, the hospital is working on ramping up its testing capacity as soon as possible to help reduce wait times.
“We are looking at adding extra staff, are considering expanded hours and opened a temporary COVID-19 Pop-Up Testing Site in Taylor-Massey (Crescent Town) last week and in Thorncliffe Park beginning Sept. 29 to support additional testing in our community,” Downey’s statement continued.
Kennedy pointed out she and her husband were able to stand for seven hours, but many others could not.
Kennedy reached out to Global News in an email, after spending a full day in line for testing.
“I beg you please begin immediately to change the way we are doing testing in the city. It is so important that people not be deterred from getting tested in the future, but after my experience today I will certainly think twice about it,” she wrote, adding, “My experience today is unacceptable in a modern city like Toronto.”
Premier Doug Ford addressed Chelsea’s concerns in a news conference Wednesday afternoon.
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“First of all, I’m sorry Chelsea had to wait in line and it’s unacceptable,” he said, adding, “I’m so frustrated. I am handcuffed here, because Health Canada just doesn’t seem like there’s any urgency and I will mention Chelsea’s story again to the Deputy Prime Minister that’s been a great partner, I consider a friend … but we’ve got to get our act together.”
Ford doubled down on his calls from earlier in the week for a review by Health Canada of rapid COVID-19 antigen tests in the hope that one will be approved and used to alleviate the surging demand in Ontario.
Kennedy now waits at home in self-isolation with her husband for their test results.
“There are a lot of people who are trying to do their civic duty we’ve been told we need to get tested to protect other people .. I can’t help the problem if I can’t even get in to the hospital within a reasonable amount of time,” she said.
Kennedy did note the nurses at Michael Garron Hospital “were kind and patient.”
She was also relieved to see others in line with her were calm and patient, “but you can tell that people are a little bit annoyed.”