Minister of Health Terrence Deyalsingh is seeking to assure citizens that he is working diligently to cut down the long wait time for COVID-19 test results that some citizens are experiencing in the public health sector.
Guardian Media made contact with the minister yesterday after a 32-year-old man reached out to us complaining of waiting nearly three weeks for his results. The man asked that he and the health institution be kept anonymous due to fear of victimisation.
On May 2, the man said he started getting flu-like symptoms.
“I had fatigue, fever, headache and a loss of appetite,” the man told Guardian Media via a telephone interview.
Getting the COVID-19 test on the same day at a public health facility in the Eastern Regional Health Authority was the easy part.
He was then told he would receive his results via phone call within 48 hours.
However, 19 days later when he reached out to Guardian Media, he was still awaiting results.
“I can’t tell you my status because I just don’t know! Not a call, not a text, nothing whatsoever!” the man told us angrily.
He said there was no contact information on the quarantine form he signed so therefore he went online and got a number for something called a district’s results centre. He said he called every day and was told the same thing.
“They keep giving me a runaround, telling me next week, or tomorrow we will deal with that and eventually it seems as though they got irritated,” the man said, noting that their responses to his phone calls were no longer pleasant after the first few days.
The man said he was then told that they are overwhelmed with tests at the moment and added that while he had sympathy for that, he has a job to return to that requires a fit-for-work document.
“Unfortunately, I cannot return to work without getting that information that I was positive or negative.”
To make matters worse, the man said his quarantine time has expired, something he tried to explain to the district results centre.
“They say once your quarantine period is over, we will give you a release letter but that still does not tell me if I was positive or not, that doesn’t answer my question.”
Guardian Media reached out to chief executive officer of the Eastern Regional Health Authority (ERHA) Ronald Tsoi-a-Fatt who said he was not aware of any district results centre but did say that swabs taken in the ERHA are sent to the Trinidad Public Health Lab.
We then contacted Minister Deyalsingh who said he was aware of the situation.
“And we are all working very hard on the matter to ensure a faster turnaround for those affected,” the minister said via text message.
When Guardian Media asked for specific measures, he did not reply.