Pharmacists say they could help with demand for COVID-19 testing on Vancouver Island

Pharmacists say they could help with demand for COVID-19 testing on Vancouver Island
WatchAs the COVID-19 case numbers continue to climb on Vancouver Island, and throughout the province, demand for testing is also increasing. That creates long waits to book an appointment when time is of the essence.

According to the latest numbers from the BC Centre for Disease Control, 266 residents on Vancouver Island went to get tested for COVID-19 on Tuesday.

But the system is easily overwhelmed.

B.C.’s Health Minister Adrian Dix admits demand is up.

“What we’re looking to do in the coming week is respond as we do to the ebb and flow of demand for testing.  So you will have seen often in May in June and into July, are doing just somewhat under 2,000 tests a day. And that number has increased, the demand for testing has increased,” Dix said.

Later on Wednesday, Dr. RĂ©ka Gustafson, B.C.’s deputy provincial health officer, and Dix said new assessment and testing centres and extended hours of service have been added in the Vancouver Coastal Health and Fraser Health regions to address increases in demand and B.C. has the ability to complete approximately 8,000 tests every day as of Wednesday.

“Right now, anyone with symptoms can be tested, but it is important to remember the test is recommended only if you have symptoms,” Dix and Gustafson said.

“If you do develop symptoms, no matter how mild, your first step is to distance yourself from others and contact 811 or your health-care provider to arrange for an assessment. If public health has advised you to self-isolate because you have been exposed to COVID-19, please follow their advice. Even if you have no symptoms, a negative test does not mean you can shorten the period of self-isolation.”

Testing requests come in every day the Heart Pharmacy in the Fairfield neighbourhood of Victoria.

“We actually get quite a few phone calls for it, especially in the past couple of weeks,” pharmacist Daniel Hong said.

Currently, nurses conduct COVID-19 tests for Island Health. But Hong says pharmacists could also test for the virus, a key benefit is that it would relieve the pressure on the system.

“There are only so many nurses out there, and so many physicians out there, other healthcare professionals out there. You know, pharmacists are the most accessible healthcare professionals out there,” Hong said.

Earlier this summer, Alberta announced pharmacists will conduct tests on asymptomatic clients. More than 100 tests a day are occurring at a number of locations.

Dix said B.C. is preparing for as many as 20,000 tests daily if they are needed.

“We’re looking to increase our capacity. Doesn’t mean we’ll do 20,000 tests a day. But that we have the capacity to do that should that be required,” Dix said.

READ MORE: Vancouver Island sees increased demand, longer wait times for COVID-19 tests

Mary GriffinMary Griffin

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