When Anna Winter picked up her four-year-old son at daycare last week and was told she should call public health because he had a runny nose, she did not expect to spend the next four days waiting in fear.
According to the BC Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC), most COVID-19 test results are available within 24-48 hours and adults can receive results online, via text message, or by calling the centre’s COVID-19 negative results hotline.
But the Burnaby, B.C., mother-of-two did not get her son Canyon’s results for approximately 96 hours.
“There were so many things going through my head during the long wait,” said Winter. “It was a really stressful thing to sit through.”
Not only did it take twice the expected amount of time for answers, she said, but it was also her family doctor who let her know her child was virus free — despite Winter having signed up for text message alerts when her son was tested at a Fraser Health drive-thru testing site.
Winter eventually did receive a text notification, hours after her family doctor had already called her.
She said a friend of hers who had recently been tested received her results online through the province’s My E-health portal within 24 hours. However, children under 16 can not be registered in that system.
System flawed, physician says
“Our system actually works quite well if you actually don’t have children,” said Maryam Zeineddin, a family doctor on Vancouver’s North Shore.
Zeineddin said she and her daughter, age 10, recently got tested for COVID-19 and were able to get their results in 48 hours — but because Zeineddin is a physician, she could retrieve her daughter’s test results herself.
“But I was thinking to myself, how are my own patients going to get these results? In fact, they’ll have to wait for me to get the results and then are we now supposed to call all our patients with negative results?” said Zeineddin on CBC’s The Early Edition on Thursday.
She said it is not standard practice for family doctors to call patients with negative test results, only positive ones — and making them do so for COVID-19 tests would be cumbersome.
Zeineddin said most patients do get their results within one or two days — but when it comes to kids, she said there is a “glitch” in the system that needs to be addressed immediately.
“I’m sure it’s very easily fixable, especially when it comes to My E-health,” said Zeineddin.
New testing method
Winter said the entire testing experience, from having to hold her son down for a painful nose swab to an agonizing wait for results, has made her wary of the upcoming cold and flu season.
“Now I worry about getting them tested for any sniffle,” she said. “It definitely makes me think twice before I go will through that whole process again.”
On Thursday, the province announced a new mouth rinse, gargle and spit test for students from kindergarten to Grade 12 to help make it easier for children and teenagers to check whether they have COVID-19.
The test can be done without a health professional by parents or children themselves.
Now, children like Winter’s son will not have to be subjected to a nose swab, which Zeineddin said can be “extremely painful for little kids.”
To help family doctors like Zeineddin and concerned guardians or parents like Winter navigate the upcoming cold and flu season, Doctors of BC has released a new guide for both physicians and parents about what to do if a child appears ill.