Lakeridge Health opens pop-up COVID-19 testing centre to deal with increasing demand

Click to play video: 'Temporary drive-thru COVID-19 testing centre opens in Whitby'
Temporary drive-thru COVID-19 testing centre opens in Whitby
Lakeridge Health has opened a pop-up testing facility to help deal with an increase in demand. Officials say over the past few days they have been dealing with at least 2,000 requests for COVID-19 tests in the region. Frazer Snowdon has more. – Sep 24, 2020

Lakeridge Health says they are opening an assessment centre and a pop-up drive-thru coronavirus testing facility this week in Durham Region.

It’s to help deal with an influx of patients requiring COVID-19 tests. Officials say with the economy slowly reopening and schools now in session, the demand is increasing exponentially.

“We’ve had a large demand with kids back in schools, people back to work with testing,” says Dr. Joel Kennedy, the co-chair of COVID-19 Assessment Centres in the region.

“It’s gotten to the point where wait times need to be faster for us to be able to keep up.”

That breaking point being a huge demand for tests. In fact, on Monday alone, Lakeridge says 2,000 people requested a test. Officials say in the summer, they averaged around 500 per day.

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Their goal is to give appointments within 24 hours, but that target has not been met in recent weeks.

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“We’ve seen them push out to two to three days,” says Dr. Kennedy. “We’ve particularly had an issue with the paediatric population, the younger kids. So this is one of those attempts to get ahead of that curve.”

Organizers expect more than 1,000 cars through the centre over the next two days. On Thursday, dozens were lined up before it even opened. It was a service Whitby’s mayor, Don Mitchell, says people have been asking for.

“There has been a pretty strong preference for this kind of a facility so you could just drive up and get tested,” says the mayor.

Residents are just happy to have another option.

“It’s amazing,” says Janet Flint, who has now tested four times to be able to visit her family in a long-term care home. “This allows us to avoid all the scheduling and avoid going to the hospital.”

It’s the first time a testing centre of this kind has been open in Durham Region. Normally, patients would have to go to an assessment centre and book an appointment.

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It’s a handy service for parents like Catherine James, who had to test her two-year-old for the second time.

“It actually saved us quite a bit today because I had to do this for daycare,” James said.  “I’ve already spent an hour and a half on hold trying to get into another hospital and I heard about this and got right in.”

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“I was in Ottawa and the testing centres are really crazy there,” said Savannah Brown.

“One of my roommates actually tested positive for the virus and I’ve been trying to find a place to get tested.”

Brown says one of the main issues she’s finding is asymptomatic patients taking up space.

“There’s a lot of people getting tested when they don’t need to and using up the resources.”

Driving up for a test comes just in time for the region. Durham wasn’t included on the roll-out of a pharmacy option, the premier’s office told Global News Thursday.

The pop-up service takes a lot to put together and is in collaboration with Lakeridge Health, Region of Durham Paramedic Services and the local police. Deputy Chief of the EMS, John Riches, says the process is put together with everyone’s safety in mind, including their workers.

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“A swab kit is prepared for the individual and is placed under their windshield wiper,” he says.

From there, the driver would proceed to the front for the testing process.

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“They’re in their own vehicle and that protects them as well. The other piece that is really important to that is that it allows us to go through the process rather speedily.”

The drive-thru testing service will run at the Heydenshore pavilion in Whitby until Saturday. Hours can be found on the town’s website.

Another assessment centre is opening Friday at the Mary Street parking garage in Oshawa. People who believe they need to be assessed are encouraged to fill out this questionnaire on the Lakeridge Health website.

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