Longer hours at COVID-19 assessment centre promised as more people seek tests
OTTAWA -- The COVID-19 assessment centre at the Brewer Arena may soon have extended hours, as the number of people seeking tests grows to record levels.
A joint statement from Ottawa Public Health, the Ottawa Hospital and CHEO says they anticipated increased testing volumes as kids went back to school and have tripled their staffing levels, with more staff being hired.
"Additional staff are being trained to extend hours of operation at the Brewer Assessment Centre by 4 hours/day, to 12 hours of operation, 7 days/week," the statement says. "The hours for the drive-through Assessment Centre on Coventry Rd. will be extended as well, and the technical issues related to the booking system have been resolved."
Testing numbers for Monday were not immediately available.
The assessment centre is open from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., seven days a week. The drive-thru testing centre is open daily from 11:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., but you need to book an appointment and individuals being tested must be at least 14 years old.
The statement goes on to say many people, who are considered close contacts of someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, have been recommended testing by OPH; however, others who are seeking testing for their own reasons are reminded that it's recommended they have symptoms first or wait at least five days after being potentially exposed.
"We understand several individuals have been instructed by public health to seek testing, as they are close contacts of someone who has tested positive for COVID-19," the statement reads. "It is important to know that testing is only recommended for individuals showings signs and symptoms of COVID-19 unrelated to pre-existing conditions and individuals who have come in close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19"
"NOTE: It is best to wait five days since contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 for the test to be as accurate as possible."
Users on social media noted the long lines and extensive wait times at the Brewer site on Monday.
Scott Levac posted to Twitter to say he waited more than five hours with his daughter to get her a COVID-19 test.
Levac told Newstalk 580 CFRA's "Ottawa Now with Kristy Cameron" he encountered a long line when he arrived at around 9:30 a.m.
"It was hard to even get into the parking lot," he said. "As you come in, you look out on a soccer field and you see a long line of families and that's when it dawned on me that this is going to be a long day."
He says he saw many families, with a lot of young children.
"The vast majority were probably kids under seven or eight, the usual runny nose, or coughing and stuff. It made for a long day for a lot of families," he said.
He stressed that the staff at the site were excellent.
"The staff was fantastic but I was very disappointed with the overall system."
Some city councillors have expressed frustration at the lack of available testing options across the city. While the main assessment centre at Brewer Arena is complemented by COVID-19 clinics on Moodie Drive and Heron Road, those are only open on weekdays, from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. The Coventry site, as mentioned, requires a car and doesn't test anyone younger than 14.
Orléans Coun. Matt Luloff has said he wants to see more testing capacity in the eastern part of the city.
"The current testing centres in the city close at 3:30 or 4 p.m. It's been over three months that representatives in the east have been working to identify sites and we still don't have a site in the east end. We need to increase capacity for children and in the east end and the rural areas. Despite their great work, I feel the Ottawa Hospital is failing us on testing in rural areas and the east," he told City Council on Sept. 9.
Medical Officer of Health Dr. Vera Etches addressed Luloff's points to ask all councillors to speak to general practitioners in their wards.
"Talk with the primary care providers in your communities about what they can do to offer testing in their offices," she said. "That really is the most distributed model that we have across the city. The hospitals are only going to have so many fixed sites that they can run. To get more on the ground access, it's going to take primary care as well."