'This is torture,' mom waits 6.5 hours for COVID test in Mississauga
The lineup of cars waiting for a COVID-19 test is seen at the Humber College assessment centre at 7:40 a.m. on Sept. 17, 2020. (CP24)
Published Thursday, September 17, 2020 12:19PM EDT
Last Updated Thursday, September 17, 2020 3:30PM EDT
People seeking COVID-19 tests in the GTA this week are reporting hours-long waits at assessment centres, with one mom in Mississauga sitting in her car for six and a half hours before getting a test.
And the waits are prompting Ontario's top public health official to ask people to hold off for the next few days if they can, as more capacity is added to the system.
Danijela Cabraja told CP24 she arrived at the drive-thru assessment centre at Credit Valley Hospital in Mississauga at 8 a.m. Wednesday and was told there was a four hour wait.
Three and half hours later, she was told there would be another four hours of waiting before she could get a test for herself and her 10-year-old daughter, who had throat pain and could not seek her pediatrician's help or diagnosis without a negative test.
"It's endless, I can't see where the assessment centre is from here," she said on the phone while in the line on Wednesday.
Better yet, there was no place for Cabraja or her daughter to go to the bathroom.
"I literally took my kid into the bush to take a leak," she said
After 6.5 hours of waiting, Cabraja said she and her daughter were swabbed and finally went home.
While they await the results so they can finally see a doctor, she says she is outraged at how long the process took.
"I am hoping it comes back negative because this is torture," she said.
"Your plan sucks," Cabraja told CP24 when asked about the Ford government's approach to testing. "It's their job to come up with a plan and it has failed," she said.
Health Minister Christine Elliott said Thursday that testing demand has risen 30 per cent across the province in recent weeks, roughly in lockstep with a nearly 200 per cent increase in the daily reported count of novel coronavirus infections in the province, as well as the return of 1-1.5 million students to schools.
"We'd prefer that they were shorter and people could work through it in a very timely fashion," Ontario Chief Medical Officer Dr. David Williams said Thursday when told of Cabraja's experience.
In the meantime, Williams is suggesting those who are seeking COVID-19 tests in the GTA out of their own curiosity or just as a precaution may need to wait a few days to let lineups subside.
"Much like Christmas rush shopping, there are some that need to be there, some where it's good to be there and then there are also some there where it is not as urgent," he said.
"If you don't need to be seen urgently right away – if you're getting testing because it's something that you wanted to do, you're not a contact of a case, you're not doing it during an outbreak investigation, you don't have signs or symptoms of COVID-19 or from your COVID-19 Alert app, you may want to defer your visit until the lines decrease again."
Ontario Premier Doug Ford says his government was not caught flat footed by the spike in cases and ensuing demand for tests.
"We weren't caught off guard," he told reporters Wednesday. We had some of the lowest cases – for weeks and literally overnight things increased. We're prepared to get everything ramped up in a matter of days."
Elliott said a plan to increase the number of tests processed each day from 25,000 to 30,000 per day to 50,000 per day will take approximately two weeks.
Williams said the province is also efforting to open up new assessment centres in the next few weeks to alleviate the pressure on ones in the GTA.
On Thursday, the number of test specimens waiting to be processed was more than 37,000, outstripping what provincial labs have ever been able to turn around in 24 hours during the pandemic.
Liberal leader Steven Del Duca questioned whether the Ford government was preparing this summer for a fall they always said would be turbulent due to COVID-19.
“On July 14, Ford said there would be a second wave but for some reason he still doesn’t have a plan," he said Thursday. “Instead, we see long wait times for testing - and Ontarians are being turned away after spending hours in line.”
A spokesperson with Trillium Health Partners, which operates the Credit Valley assessment centre, told CTV News Toronto the longest wait they were aware of on Wednesday was five hours.
"I can confirm that Trillium Health Partners (THP) has seen increased volumes at all of our COVID-19 Assessment Centres in the past two weeks. This began the week before Labour Day weekend," Keeley Rogers said.
The line for the drive-thru assessment centre was capped by 3:30 p.m., she said, while the walk-in side of the centre accepted patients until 7:30 p.m.
Meanwhile in Etobicoke, Cassie Keenan went to the drive-thru assessment centre at Humber River Hospital on Wednesday and waited for four hours for a test.
"I just kept thinking about the people who need to go there for work – they have less time disposable to them to be at such a thing," she said. "If this is taking up four-plus hours of their day – that's really detrimental."
She said she is planning to visit her younger sister in Ottawa who just had a baby, and wants two negative COVID-19 tests "to be on the safe side."
During her wait, she said it would have been impossible for someone who wanted to give up and go home to manoeuvre their car out of the line.
She said that given the increase in cases and kids going back to school, the long wait for a test was what she expected.
"It doesn't inspire confidence but it is also not entirely surprising."