British Columbia

COVID-19 negative test confirmations delayed up to 2 weeks as hotline swamped by 10,000 calls a day

A hotline set up for people to confirm negative COVID-19 test results keeps hanging up on people.

Provincial health officer said in early October positive test results still returned within 24 hours

The Provincial Health Services Authority of B.C. is reporting delays of up to two weeks for negative test confirmations. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

A hotline set up for people to confirm negative COVID-19 test results keeps hanging up on people.

The Provincial Health Services Authority of B.C. says the phone number is getting more than 10,000 calls per day and that's causing delays of up to two weeks or more.

"The Hotline is working on a new contact centre environment to help alleviate call volumes by putting callers into a queue or offering a callback option. In the meantime, we appreciate everyone's patience," José Vargas of PHSA media relations wrote to CBC on Monday.

Michael Armstrong experienced the problem firsthand.

"I could never get through that line. It just hangs up on you," he said.

Armstrong said he first got tested for COVID-19 after waiting in line for more than an hour on Sept. 23. The negative results came two days later by text.

But then he began to feel worse. Concerned the first test may have been a false-negative, he returned and got retested on Sept. 27.

Vehicle lineups at a COVID-19 testing facility in Vancouver, British Columbia. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Then he waited for more than two weeks with no word. No text. No luck getting through the hotline, despite multiple tries. So he signed up for E-Health using a different number but ended up getting a dial tone again.

On Oct. 11, he drove to a drive-thru testing site and waited in line. Once it was his turn for a COVID test, he said he didn't want a test, just the result of the last test.

He said, after a bit of back-and-forth, he was told by the head nurse that his last test for COVID-19 was negative.

As of Monday, he still hadn't received an official text of his test result.

 Armstrong said he works from home so the wait wasn't a panic, but he can only imagine how urgent this would be for a person who is relying on a test to return to work.

Armstrong says he expects hiccups given that it's an ongoing pandemic, but said, "It's been terribly frustrating."

Despite the backlog in negative test confirmations, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said at the beginning of October that people who tested positive could expect to receive their results within 24 hours.

with files from Joel Ballard

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