COVID-19 PCR testing facilities in the Southern NSW Local Health District are struggling to deal with the growing community demand to get tested.
Increased testing caused by family Christmas gatherings, growing outbreaks of the virus, and to satisfy travel requirements, have led to widespread delays at testing facilities.
Facilities cannot handle the surge in demand, with hour-long queues to get tested, before waiting days for test results.
Southern NSW Local Health District (SNSWLHD) has closed some testing facilities in the region because they are inundated with tests, causing a backlog processing results in laboratories.
The drive through Clinic at Seiffert Oval in Queanbeyan is one such facility, now closed until January 4 to deal with existing tests.
Peter Trama from Goulburn waited 90 minutes in line at Seiffert Oval yesterday. For more than twelve hours, he had been experiencing a fever, cough, sore throat and headache leaving him feeling nauseous.
When he eventually made it to within two cars from the front of the line, he was told the facility was closed because the day's samples had to be sent to the lab for testing.
"It's frustrating," he said. "I am trying to do the right thing, but I just can't."
"All those people at Seiffert Oval got turned away at 1:30 pm. It could've been elderly people, or violently ill people.
"My condition isn't being controlled by Panadol, and I have to wait in a car in the heat. I'm lucky it wasn't a hotter day.
"The government should've anticipated this at Christmas time. Why wasn't there things put in place to compensate?
Mr Trama was more frustrated by today's announcement the facility will be closed until January 4. He wants to see the opposite: more testing facilities opening up, rather than closing down.
"The system is already overwhelmed and we are closing testing facilities. What are we doing?
"Why are we waiting 72 hours when a test result can be back in 12?"
Mr Trama owns his own business, and said the delay in receiving has big financial implications.
"How can I afford to have over 72 hours off work to get my test result back?" he said. "Do I go to work anyway, or do I go broke?"
Those facilities that remain open are experiencing long queues, and must stop residents from joining the queue in the early-afternoon so that results can be collected for the lab on time.
The testing facility at Moruya, like many throughout the SNSWLHD, has had queues over 500 metres before 8am each morning since it re-opened after Christmas. Testing opens at 9am. The queue winds through the carpark and overflows down the road for hundreds of metres. It is an hour wait when a car finally makes it into the carpark itself.
Hospitals in the region are being used to prioritise clinically urgent cases, such as hospital workers, healthcare patients, aged-care residents and aged-care facility staff.
With test-result waiting times now exceeding 72 hours, the health district is urging residents to not get tested prior to travel, because results will not be received in time. They hope this will help ease the burden on testing facilities.
"We are doing our best to support extra testing but at our sites our focus is on hospital patients, sick or symptomatic people, healthcare workers and the pregnant and vulnerable" a SNSWLHD spokesperson said.
It comes on a day when SNSWLHD recorded 39 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the total active cases to 218.
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