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Hamilton shifts to online booking of COVID-19 tests amidst long delays for testing

The drive-thru COVID-19 assessment centre at Dave Andreychuk Mountain Arena is one of three assessment centres operating in Hamilton.
The drive-thru COVID-19 assessment centre at Dave Andreychuk Mountain Arena is one of three assessment centres operating in Hamilton. Rick Zamperin / 900 CHML

Hamilton’s COVID-19 assessment and testing centres are shifting to online booking of appointments.

As of Thursday, residents requiring a coronavirus test can now book online by visiting www.HamiltonCovidTest.ca.

It’s a response to a surge in demand for testing, which has doubled in recent weeks.

Associate medical director of health Dr. Nhin Tran says the public health phone lines are taking, on average, about 2,000 calls each day from concerned residents looking to book a test.

Read more: Coronavirus — Requests for COVID-19 tests have more than doubled in Hamilton

On Tuesday, Tran has told the city’s general issues committee, the number reached 3,000.

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The city says the move to online booking will allow residents to book appointments faster and help public health to prioritize symptomatic individuals and those at greatest risk.

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The public health services COVID-19 hotline — 905-974-9848 — will remain available for those who do not have access to online booking.

Read more: New Hamilton COVID-19 testing centre to open at St. Joe’s West 5th campus

Tran has also asked for “patience” while indicating that public health is looking for solutions to long lines and delays for testing at the assessment centres.

Hamilton has three such centres, which are performing a combined total of about 1,000 tests each day, up from 450 when they first opened but only half of the current average volume of calls that are coming in from residents asking for testing.

Stoney Creek Coun. Brad Clark says it’s a major problem for residents “who are being told to self-isolate while they are waiting for results of tests, or waiting to get the test, and the longer that takes the more income they lose.”

“This is really hurting a lot of people in our community,” Clark said.

Tran describes it as a “supply and demand” issue, indicating there are limits to the number of tests that can be performed due to such factors as provincial funding, staffing and capacity at the testing centres.