Hey Ontario Government. Want to open up again for business? Want to be a Government that’s “For the People“?
Heed these words of first hand experience from one of your COVID-19 Testing Centres and learn.
For starters: I’m a personal injury lawyer. I’m lucky to have my own practice; call my own shots and set my own schedule. My “boss” are my clients. I don’t have to punch a clock or report to a manager if I have to take time off work. I have a team of lawyers and clerks to help serve our clients. That makes me very lucky. I appreciate that most people don’t have the same luxury or flexibility in setting their own schedules or getting help.
I can still remember the days of working at the paint department as a Sales Associate at Store #1097 Sears Promenade where mid level management would be on us like hawks if we punched in 5 minutes late. I recall how rigid scheduling was along with the wrath we would face if we called in sick or missed a shift. It wasn’t just the end of the world; but your future with the company was a stake. Once you missed too many shifts or were late too often, you were labelled as “not a team player” and it reflected on performance reviews and raises. These sort of job pressures were an everyday concern; particularly for those Sales Associates who were making their careers working at Sears with the hopes of one day making it to management or better yet; working at the Jarvis Street Head Office building.
Jump to September 2020. My 3 year old son is back at school (amazing). School protocol requires an online self health screen everyday. If your child has the sniffles, a sore throat, a runny nose etc.; they can’t go to school and must either:
a) self quarantine for 14 days
b) get a COVID test
These are typical cold symptoms. As concerned parents we opt to get a COVID screen which we hope returns negative.
We first try Women’s College Hospital in Toronto because they have a quick turnaround time for test results and have the capacity to test younger children.
NOTE: Not all testing centres are able to test young children. Look in to this before attending a test centre.
We pre-register for an appointment but no one calls us back. I opt to take my 3 year old son nonetheless because the test needs to be done.
Upon arrival outside of the hospital there is a white tent, some COVID-19 Testing Centre signs, along with HUNDREDS of people sorta lined up; sorta mobbed up, outside of the white tent. No usher or information person in site. There were so many people you would think they were giving out a COVID antidote or something. It was certainly a very LARGE group of people without much method to the madness. The half mob half line extended the length of the hospital. The line wasn’t moving. It was less than ideal so we left.
The next testing centre we tried out was at Branson Hospital. The line there was much more organized than the one at Women’s College Hospital. But it too was very long. So long in fact it spanned the distance of the main hospital building, the secondary hospital building and went all the want to the adjacent retirement home.
My 3 year old son and I waited in line. We waited and waited and and waited for over 3 hours.
We would like have waited even LONGER had to not been for a bee sting which my son got while waiting in line. In hindsight, the bee sting was fortuitous.
Because he was stung by a bee, they let us in the hospital to see if they could get some ice to reduce the swelling. They had no ice or cold compresses on site. Oh well.
But, they felt bad for us, so they let us skip the queue and register my son and I for testing so that we could go home to get some ice. Had it not been for this bee sting, we would have been there much longer.
A few observations:
- The people in the line all distanced appropriately and wore masks. BUT, the security guard responsible for herding the people between symptomatic patients and asymptomatic patients did not really understand the concept of distancing and herded both lines far too close for comfort. Why is a security guard in charge of this? Isn’t this sort of thing kinda important? Like important for someone with a teeny tiny bit of medical training to make sure that the COVID Testing Centre doesn’t turn in to a Giant Super Spreader Party? I’m not saying that a doctor should supervise these lines; but maybe a nurse? Maybe an OT? Maybe an occupational health and safety expert? Maybe someone who isn’t a security guard!?!?!? We’ve got to be better than trusting our COVID health to a security guard.
- People in line distanced; but people who had just arrived to the site who needed to walk to the back of the line failed to distance with those standing in line; thus negating the effects of distancing. They arrived; went to the front of the line to ask a question in search of someone to ask a question (who wasn’t there); and then walked to the back of the line brushing dangerously close everyone standing in line. It was like they thought they were invisible because they were headed to the back of the line.
- The entire test itself took approximately 15 seconds. The registration for the test was longer than the test itself. We’ve had 6 months to plan for this. Surely; there’s gotta be a better way. There’s no way that everyone on that line could afford to take 3-5 hours out of their day to get this test done. If the government wants to open up again for business; testing needs to be more readily available, more convenient and much quicker. Why aren’t there people trained in schools and on university campuses to administer tests? Why aren’t there people in large factories or large multi building apartments doing the same? What’s being done to remedy these wait times for testing? Having undergone a test, I can tell you that it wasn’t rocket science. People can’t take their entire day to get tests done. The lines and wait times are a deterrent to testing.
- Knowing that the lines at the test centres are LONG; there needs to be more people outside ushering people to where they need to be and answering questions. Saying that information is available online isn’t good enough. Symptomatic people go here. Asymptomatic people go here. Children, Elderly and people with disabilities go here. Have your health card and family doctor information ready. If you don’t have this information, then go home and get it! Expect to wait “x” number of hours from this point in line. University students would be great candidates for these jobs.
- We stood outside on a Fall Day for around 3 hours. The weather was fine. Are you telling me that people are going to stand outside for 3+ hours in -20 degree weather come winter time?
If we want to open up again for business, testing needs to be easier, more efficient and faster; particularly in large centres with dense populations where people can’t distance. There has to be more testing sites where wait lines aren’t turning people off from getting tests done. What we have now simply isn’t making the grade; no matter what your politicians may say.