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‘System cannot cope’ – frustration voiced on wait for Coronavirus testing

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Clare residents and nurses across the country have complained with the length of time it has taken for them to be tested for Coronavirus.

Earlier this month, The Clare Echo spoke with a Lahinch native who expressed his fear with the manner in which testing was being managed by the HSE. He has gone on to make a full recovery having presented with symptoms, relations of his had been in Northern Italy and were in close contact with him upon their return.

In recent days, an Ennis native revealed she had been waiting a week to be tested and was a further eight days anticipating a result. She claimed the numbers being presented by the Department of Health were “out of date” by at least a week. “This is more serious than it looks and the system cannot cope”. One woman from Bunratty had been waiting a week to be tested and was also eight days without a result.

The Clare Echo understands that multiple healthcare workers had been left waiting between seven to ten days for test results leaving members of the front-line out of work during a global health pandemic. This includes doctors and nurses who have returned to assist at this time of crisis.

A Dublin based nurse said six of her last seven shifts were covered by agency or overtime because she had been waiting for Coronavirus test results. She wished RTÉ presenter, Ryan Tubridy well in his recovery but questioned, “Why in the name of God am I still waiting when Ryan Tubridy has gotten results? Surely returning nurses to work should be prioritised”.

Consultant Medical Oncologist, Professor John Crown stated on Tuesday night that a family member of his was waiting from March 18th to 27th without a result while he pointed that in the United States, the turnaround time was forty five minutes.

Public health officials have advised that personnel with symptoms awaiting a test must “act as if you have the virus and self isolate whether you are booked for a test or not”.

Equipment shortages on Sunday and Monday meant testing could not be carried out in some locations across the country including Páirc Uí Chaoimh which is the largest test centre in the State.

A Department of Health official confirmed to The Clare Echo that over 2,000 tests had been carried out in the Republic of Ireland on Tuesday. “The HSE now has a plentiful supply of swabbing kits and patient volumes being referred for swabbing can easily be processed by existing testing centres.

“As indicated previously we are experiencing challenges in terms of securing supplies of reagent for testing laboratories. As referenced in international media this is a global problem with major suppliers having to ration supplies across the world. We are currently exploring the procurement of reagent from international sources. In addition we continue to bring on additional laboratories, some with different reagents”.

Additional capacity has been secured nationally with the HSE Public Analyst Laboratory at Cherry Orchard and a laboratory from the Department of Agriculture.

“We apologise to all those waiting for test results and we wish to assure the public that we are making every endeavour to improve turnaround times within the current international constraints. Testing is performed for public health as opposed to clinical reasons and patients waiting for results should continue to self-isolate for 14 days. We continue to prioritise testing of healthcare workers and in patients in acute hospitals. Acknowledging the delay in testing we are beginning direct contact tracing of high risk groups in advance of test results,” the spokesperson added.

Páraic McMahon is Head of News & Sport with The Clare Echo. The Newmarket-on-Fergus native also writes for national papers including The Irish Examiner, The Irish Independent and The Irish Times along with doing work for RTÉ, Today FM, TheJournal.ie and The42.ie. A graduate of Mary Immaculate College, Páraic was previously employed by The Clare Herald and Clare FM. If you have a story, tip or some feedback for him then send an email to - paraic@clareecho.ie

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