‘Whole thing is just a mess’: People told to assume COVID-19 tests lost if no result arrives within seven days

After spending six days in isolation waiting for his COVID-19 test result, Brady Watson was told it had been "inadequately labelled".

Key points:

  • Queensland Health says PCR testing demand escalated quickly in December 
  • COVAX-managed clinics at QUT Kelvin Grove and UQ have been removed from the directory of testing locations
  • The Queensland government says it has secured 18 million rapid antigen tests that will arrive in coming weeks

Testing queues have again ballooned across the state with many turning people away yesterday, unable to grapple with the ever-growing demand.

Queensland Health has removed at least two clinics – at QUT Kelvin Grove and UQ St Lucia – from its testing directory, with more than 250 people still waiting on results from tests that were taken there last week.

Among them are Mr Watson and his roommates, who were tested at COVAX's QUT Kelvin Grove clinic on December 28.

After six days in isolation, he received a text message telling him his swab could not be processed.

"The stress that we went through that day just to find a place, just to be in vain, and have no result whatsoever — it's incredibly frustrating," Mr Watson said.

"To wake up and see that they had misplaced it and not even given us an explanation, but to say that they labelled it inadequately, what does that mean?"

Mr Watson's sister and one of his roommates still have not received their results from the same Kelvin Grove testing clinic.

They are all now trying to source PCR tests elsewhere as they cannot return to work without a negative result, but it is proving difficult as demand increases across the state.

"We're getting people to tell us where they've gone, but it's just so far been rocking up and being turned back and told to come back the next day, or it's been too full," Mr Watson said.

"It's just like 'Well, how do we get tested when I've got to tell my place of work that I have it or I don't?'"

"The whole thing is just a mess right now," he added.

Mr Watson's sister and one of his roommates still have not received their results from the COVAX-operated QUT Kelvin Grove testing clinic.(Supplied: Brady Watson)More RAT supplies on the way

The state government said it had secured 18 million rapid antigen tests that would be given out for free to close contacts and positive cases at public testing sites. 

The supplies are expected to land over the coming weeks.

The situation has put a dampener on what is otherwise meant to be a social holiday season and start to the new year.

"It's such an important time of the year where the only chance most of us get to see our families and have time off," Mr Watson said.

About 18 million rapid antigen tests are expected to land over the coming weeks. (ABC News: Alice Pavlovic)

Queensland Chief Health Officer John Gerrard recognised staff at testing clinics were under the pump.

"There's a limit to what we are actually … able to do — we only have so many staff available to do these sort of tests," Dr Gerrard said.

Queensland Chief Health Officer John Gerrard says staff at testing clinics are under the pump.(ABC News: Michael Lloyd)

"One of the issues has been that the private sector has not been doing as much testing over the Christmas period."

'Nobody could find my test'

Christine O'Brien was also tested at the QUT Kelvin Grove clinic last Tuesday and after days without results, began contacting pathology labs wondering if her test had been lost.

"I called 4cyte, I called QML, I called the Mater, I called Sullivan Nicolaides — everyone was lovely and kind and nice but nobody could find my test," she said.

"I didn't even know if my test had made it somewhere."

Ms O'Brien received a negative result on Monday morning – six days after being tested.(Supplied: Christine O'Brien)

She also coordinated a Facebook post in a group dedicated to testing delays – bringing together people who were tested at that clinic.

"We ended up with hundreds of comments and some of those people were commenting, 'myself and my roommate, myself and my partner, myself and my four kids'," Ms O'Brien said.

"The numbers just grow and grow.

"There are people who still have two people's results and nobody else's in a car of five [that went to the testing centre]."

Ms O'Brien received a negative result on Monday morning – six days after being tested and after following health advice and cancelling her New Year's Eve plans.

"I had every bit of evidence other than the PCR that I didn't have COVID, but I'm listening to the advice and I want to make sure before I mingle," she said.

"My partner and I stayed in for New Year's [Eve] — we had a party we should have gone to — the waiting game is frustrating.

"If they had said, 'It'll be six days', people would not have been nearly as stressed.

"It's the ongoing slow roll and the lack of tracking that really stressed everyone out."

People told to assume tests lost if no results in seven days

Queensland Health said in a statement that PCR testing demand escalated quickly in December and "continues to place pressure on hospital and health services and private pathology providers".

"Removing the day five PCR testing requirement for those entering Queensland, changes to the definitions of close and casual contacts and expanded use of rapid antigen testing will all assist to ease the testing burden over coming days and weeks," the statement said.

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People are being told to assume their test is lost if a result has not been returned within seven days.

Queensland Health has not confirmed how many tests have been lost.

It is understood that some samples have been incorrectly labelled by testing providers, which delayed results.

Other tests have been unable to be processed.

An email from Queensland Health to people tested at the QUT Kelvin Grove site said that "some patients" would need to be retested.

Screenshot of an email sent to someone who got tested at a COVID-19 test site.(Supplied)

"If you have been informed of issues with your sample you are able to present for re-collection," the email said.

"Alternatively, if you have waited more than 48 hours you may present for re-collect."

It said a specific clinic would be opened today and Wednesday dedicated to retesting those whose tests could not be processed or who have not received results.

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Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news

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