Concerns Grow About Assessment Centre Waiting Times

As new daily cases of COVID-19 reach heights not seen since the spring, people are understandably concerned about their own safety. But the rush in demand for information and testing is starting to make people ask questions about whether or not our own local public health unit is capable of handling the increased demand. And yesterday, Guelph’s COVID-19 Assessment Centre had to shut down early…

Shortly after 4 pm on Tuesday, Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health posted to social media saying, “The Guelph Assessment Centre is closing early today. It has reached capacity.” The Assessment Centre is supposed to be open weekdays until 8 pm.

Tuesday’s earlier closure of the centre came after a post from public health last week that informed people that their COVID-19 call centre was experiencing higher that normal call levels, and that any messages left would be answered the next business day. The implication of the post was that a lot of people were calling to make appointments at the assessment centre, but presently the only way to get a COVID-19 test is to appear in-person at the assessment centre on Southgate; no reservations by phone or email are taken.

That same post also warned people that it might take between four and 10 days to receive the results of a COVID-19 test, and it’s worth noting that the incubation period for the virus from the time of exposure is 14 days. For those waiting for a COVID-19 test in Guelph, members of the public have been trading information on social media sites like the “Guelph This & That” group on Facebook, and they’re reporting that wait times at the assessment centre are between 20 minutes to an hour depending on the day and the time.

For the record, Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health runs two additional COVID-19 assessment centres to the Guelph location, one is at the Headwaters Health Centre in Orangeville and the other is at Legacy Groves in Fergus.

But despite the difficulties in getting a test here in Guelph, Waterloo Region Public Health announced on social media after 9 am Wednesday morning that the drive-thru testing centre at Grand River Hospital was being closed after reaching capacity for the day. “We are hopeful to reopen tomorrow,” Grand River Hospital said in the post.

In addition to the testing centre at Grand River Hospital, Waterloo Region Public Health is operating three additional locations including spots at Cambridge Memorial Hospital and St. Mary’s Hospital in Kitchener.

“Doug Ford can ignore reality all he wants, but the testing situation is going from bad to worse as people are turned away at the crack of dawn,” said Guelph MPP Mike Schreiner in a statement on Tuesday.

“The failure to anticipate a surge in testing demand as schools and workplaces reopen is totally unacceptable seven months into this pandemic,” Schreiner added. “Ontario is playing catch-up at the worst possible time and the Premier owns the consequences.”

As if sensing potential condemnation like this, the Government of Ontario announced today that they have arranged for 60 pharmacies in the province to perform COVID-19 tests by appointment starting Friday. None of the 60 listed are in the Guelph area, but they are concentrated in Toronto, Peel Region, and Ottawa, which have all ben hotspots in the recent surge in new cases.

“We rely on our pharmacists for our flu shots, prescriptions, and important health advice for ourselves and our families. It makes sense to engage them as key partners in delivering more COVID-19 testing,” said Premier Doug Ford in a statement. “With everyone pitching in, we are well on our way to reaching our goal of 50,000 tests a day and stopping the spread of COVID-19.”

But almost immediately, concerns were raised about whether or not these pharmacies will be ready to start.

“The media barely had to scratch the surface to expose the Premier’s unpreparedness,” said Schreiner after this news broke. “This only makes it clearer that Ford is making it up as he goes.”

On Wednesday, the updated numbers of COVID-19 cases from Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health is 48 active cases, with only one new confirmed case in the last 24 hours. Almost three-quarters of the current active cases are in Guelph, where the total number of COVID cases hit 300 on Wednesday.

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