Frustrated Manitobans say they’re waiting days for COVID-19 test results

The provincial government says it’s working to address flaws in its COVID-19 testing system, as some Manitobans say they’re experiencing frustrating waits on the phone with Health Links, as well as days-long delays in getting their test results.

Lorelei Fenton-Brodoway and her teenage son went for testing last Friday. As of Wednesday afternoon, she still didn’t know their status.

Isolating is not an issue for her, because she works at home in Winnipeg, but she’s worried for her son, who can’t go back to school until he has a negative test result.

“It hurts to see the emotional roller-coaster,” for him, she said.

“They have just finally got back to school after a six-month-long spring break. And it was just a couple of weeks worth, which was a bit of a teaser. And now, again, he’s stuck at home having to self-isolate,” she said.

“I don’t think it’s really fair to not know.”

Fenton-Brodoway also thinks the province could be more clear about how long people should expect to wait for results.

“Do we include weekends or not? I know this may sound very trivial to most people … but to those of us who are eagerly waiting for test results, clear information like that becomes really important.”

In the meantime, she’s checking her account on the province’s Health Links service for more information.

Others, though, can’t even get that information.

Sophia Detillieux says she waited two-and-a-half hours to speak to a Health Links operator. She’s been having difficulty accessing COVID-19 test results through her online profile. (Submitted by Sophia Detillieux)

Sophia Detillieux of Winnipeg says she’s been having difficulty accessing her account for the last two weeks. She had to call Health Links for her test results because she couldn’t log in, but even that was a challenge.

She waited more than two-and-a-half hours to speak to someone, and she can’t get proof of her results to show her employer or the University of Manitoba, where she’s a student, without access to the online system.

When she asked the call operator for help, they directed her to an online help form.

“When I did that, it says it takes five to seven business days for you to get a response from them. But I still haven’t gotten an email response, so I still can’t access my test results online,” she said.

“I was very anxious about finding out the results, because I had plans and I had labs and things like that.”

‘Transportation and technical issues’: province

Detillieux and Fenton-Brodoway aren’t the only ones experiencing hurdles.

Others have reached out to CBC News complaining of waits up to four hours to speak to someone at Health Links, or waits of over a week for test results.

A spokesperson from the province acknowledged there are delays in both areas.

Back in September, the average daily call volume at Health Links was 1,750. This week, it fielded a record 3,426 calls on Monday, and another 3,419 on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, there are some “transportation and technical issues” leading to the delay in test processing, the province says.

“Work is underway to review the entire testing system from beginning to end to reduce transportation times and implement processes to streamline specimen collection, transportation, testing and technical services,” the spokesperson said in an email to CBC News.

Premier Brian Pallister said at a press conference Wednesday that he’s dissatisfied with the roadblocks in the system.

“I want to assure Manitobans that our government’s not happy with the lack of action on our own part, so we’re taking steps right now,” he said.

“There’ll be additional testing sites, some of which have been announced. There’ll be more.”

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