Saskatchewan WCB looking at paying for private PCR tests for COVID-19 claimants

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WATCH: Some light is being shed on what COVID-positive people can do if they think they got infected on the job and make a WCB claim – Jan 13, 2022

If a person suspects they contracted COVID-19 on the job, the Saskatchewan Workers’ Compensation (WCB) Board will now “look at” covering the cost of a private polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test.

The development comes a week after the WCB said that positive rapid antigen tests won’t be accepted as part of the claim process. At the same time, the Saskatchewan government has told coronavirus-positive people to only seek PCR testing if their symptoms are worse than mild.

Read more: COVID-19: What Sask. employees should know about PCR testing rights, workers’ comp. claims

Provincial health officials continue to recommend against PCR testing for people with mild symptoms if they tested positive using a rapid test.

“COVID-injury claims are assessed on a case-by-case basis,” said Jennifer Norleen-Beitel, vice president of operations at the WCB.

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If a person tests positive using a rapid test and suspects the infection is work-related, the WCB “would encourage” them to get a PCR test, Norleen-Beitel said during a Thursday news conference.

“We will look at reimbursing private test expenses if a workplace exposure is under review or if it’s proven to be linked in the workplace,” Norleen-Beitel said.

Other possibilities include a physician’s report or hospital records, she added.

Read more: Sask. widow given compensation after husband’s suicide linked to workplace bullying

People with mild symptoms are being told not to get PCR tests in order to preserve the option for those who need it most, according to Derek Miller, interim chief operating officer of the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA).

He noted increasing demand at testing sites in the province. Drive-thru testing wait times peaked at four hours at noon Thursday in Saskatoon, while the peak in Regina was between three and four hours at 1 p.m.

“Within the SHA, we are working to ensure we can provide that level of 3,000 to 4,000 tests per day,” Miller said.

Read more: Staffing concerns at Saskatchewan schools as COVID-19 cases surge

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Saskatchewan’s NDP health critic, Vicki Mowat, told Global News there is still a “major discrepancy” between what WCB requires and the government’s recommendations.

She said WCB is “on the right track” for seeking a PCR test, so that a positive case is correctly identified on a person’s medical records. The solution, according to Mowat, is for the government to boost staffing for PCR testing and make it widely available.

One of her concerns is that people won’t immediately know if their COVID-19 case will result in long-term negative effects.

“The government didn’t think this through before they introduced the policy and I’m concerned that people are going to fall through the cracks,” Mowat said.

Saskatchewan reported 1,060 new PCR-tested cases of COVID-19 Thursday, though the true number of COVID-19 cases is likely much higher due to people who test positive on a rapid test.

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