Long lines of people waiting for routine blood work outside of medical diagnostic company Dynacare’s 27 currently-open Winnipeg locations are due to public health restrictions axing the number of people allowed inside at a time, the company said.
The Brampton, Ont.,-based company operates all of the private blood and urine collection sites in Winnipeg, sending samples daily to its King Edward Street laboratory for analysis.
“We created waiting rooms for 40 to 50 patients — with physical distancing of two metres, it could reduce to literally five or six patients in the waiting room,” said Dr. Jenisa Naidoo, the company’s chief scientific officer and vice president of clinical development and quality.
“If you normally had 40 patients in a waiting room, you’ve now got 35 outside.”
Increased disinfection between patients at its sites and the increased use of extensive personal protective equipment have also added to wait times for routine testing, Naidoo said.
After a lull in demand for diagnostic testing amid the early days of COVID-19 pandemic shutdowns, that demand has returned to pre-pandemic levels, Naidoo said in an interview.
The company is working to remedy the problem of people standing outside, she said. It received public health approval to install plexiglass barriers between chairs in waiting rooms and has mandated masks in its locations.
Dynacare also plans to open three more permanent diagnostic testing sites in Winnipeg and will keep operating two “pop-up” sites it opened earlier this year.
Further, Naidoo said, the company is looking for a large, temporary location for the winter months to prevent people from waiting outdoors — she pointed to community centres as a possible option.
“It’s been a challenge,” Naidoo said of the pandemic generally.
The company, which currently has a monopoly on diagnostic testing services in the city, has been working with the provincial government to analyze COVID-19 tests in tandem with the Cadham Provincial Laboratory since the beginning of the pandemic.
This week, the province contracted Dynacare to operate private COVID-19 testing sites amid increased demand for novel coronavirus tests — the first site is slated to open next week at a yet-to-be-determined location.
Naidoo said the provincially-contracted COVID-19 sampling sites will not affect its operations at routine diagnostic testing sites.
“The COVID-19 assessment centres are new sites, new staff so we are actually hiring as we speak,” she said.