Island Health authority ramps up referral-only virus testing centres

Dozens of testing and referral-only COVID-19 assessment centres have been set up on Vancouver Island as the health authority ramps up its efforts in the face of the pandemic.

The sites are screened off for relative privacy and health care workers wear protective gear.

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“We are looking at opening additional clinics in the coming weeks based on need at provincial testing strategies,” spokeswoman Cheryl Bloxham said in a statement from Island Health.

There are 13 referral-only assessment clinics: three in Greater Victoria, five on the central Island and five in the north Island.

The referral-only clinics are for symptomatic patients who have been referred by a physician or nurse practitioner for further assessment.

Island Health is also working with 811 to ensure people without a doctor or nurse practitioner can access this service.

As of Friday, there were also 16 testing clinics on the Island: three in Greater Victoria, six on the central Island and seven on the north Island.

Not everyone who is symptomatic will be tested.

The sites follow guidelines set by the B.C. Centre for Disease Control, testing people who are hospitalized or likely to be hospitalized, health care workers, residents in long-term care, and people who are part of an investigation for a cluster outbreak.

The clinics surprised some residents when they started going up.

“They were building a whole bunch of tents,” said James Younger of the clinic outside the Saanich Peninsula health unit beside the hospital. “It looked like a triage centre. I was surprised to see it pop up.”

Younger said a friend was infected with COVID-19 and for at least five days the symptoms were severe. He’s hoping everyone will take all restrictions around the pandemic seriously.

Island Health is in the process of opening referral-only assessment and testing clinics throughout the Island.

Family doctors and nurse practitioners who have made an assessment by video call or phone can refer symptomatic people who require a face-to-face assessment.

These assessment clinics are used for people who have more than mild COVID symptoms, but are not sick enough to go to a hospital emergency department, said the health authority.

They are regarded by the health authority as “safe places to perform in-person assessments.”

ceharnett@timescolonist.com

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