Vancouver Island nurse’s return to work delayed due to COVID test backlog

Vancouver Island nurse's return to work delayed due to COVID test backlog

After her winter getaway to Mexico, Danica de Gruyter thought she would be back to work in her role as a nurse in the emergency department by now.

De Gruyter says she knew that there would be extra steps for her return to work, but after having worked on the front lines for two years of this pandemic she says she needed time away and thought she had done all her due diligence to ensure she could return in a timely manner.

When she returned to Canada, she was informed she was randomly selected for asymptomatic COVID testing and would be required to isolate until the results came back.

“We had organized our PCR test when we left Mexico and they were negative. And then we returned to Canada with our negative test,” de Gruyter said. 

“I got randomly selected to have a take-home COVID test, which I knew there was a risk for and when I read that online, it sounded like it’d be about a 72-hour isolation to get the results which I accepted with the travel advisory. Unfortunately, that has turned into a lot longer.”

De Gruyter says she sent in her COVID test on Dec. 31, but the test didn’t arrive at the processing centre until Jan. 5.

She says she was supposed to return to work the day it arrived at the processing centre, and that she has looked into alternative ways to get tested so she can return to work.

“I wanted to get a private test, which I’m willing to pay for, or at another testing facility, [I was told] it would be considered provincial and therefore non-valid, and I would be at risk for penalties federally,” de Gruyter said.

She says she also inquired about having her test prioritized as there is currently a shortage of health-care workers, but was told that is not an option.

The BC Nurses’ Union recently told CHEK News that the staff shortage in Island Health is at a critical level.

“Vancouver Island is, I would say it’s critical,” said Danette Thomsen, BCNU’s interim vice president. “Nanaimo is 25-35 per cent over capacity. Comox and Campbell River are well over 20 per cent most of the time. In Victoria, they are having a heck of a time with staffing. We’re hearing from nurses saying they’ve never seen it this bad.”

Island Health has asked staff to return from their vacations early, in an attempt to ensure staffing levels at the hospitals remain at adequate levels.

CHEK reached out to Health Canada for comment on de Gruyter’s case, and the agency said it cannot comment on individual cases, but the current waitlist for test results as indicated on their website is one to three days for people in B.C.

If there are delays, Health Canada says travellers should contact LifeLabs for more information.

De Gruyter says she has been told that there is no capacity for testing on evenings or weekends, so when she dropped off her test she was told it wouldn’t be picked up for at least five days since they were heading into a weekend and holiday.

She says in an attempt to be proactive, she has reached out to several different emails and phone numbers to try and get more information about how she can accelerate her return to work, but has been told she just has to wait for her test results.

-With files from April Lawrence and Kori Sidaway

Laura BroughamLaura Brougham

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