British Columbia

Patients in northern B.C. getting COVID-19 test results faster thanks to air transport efforts

Sending tests to labs in the Lower Mainland by plane has cut the waiting time for results to two days from about two weeks.  

The waiting time has gone from two weeks to two days

COVID-19 tests taken in small northern B.C. communities like Chetwynd and Tumbler Ridge are being flown to the Lower Mainland for processing. (Shutterstock)

The wait for COVID-19 test results in many northern B.C. communities has become much shorter now that tests are being sent to labs in the Lower Mainland by air, rather than road transport. 

Sending tests by plane has cut the waiting time for results to two days from about two weeks.  

"We have done a lot of work to decrease the transport time from the time that specimen is taken, to getting it down to the labs in Vancouver and we've now got air transport out of Fort St. John, Terrace and Prince George, which has really expedited turnaround time," Northern Health CEO Cathy Ulrich said. 

"We've never really thought that those delays in testing are acceptable," lab technician Hilary Gosnell told Daybreak North host Carolina de Ryk. 

"That's not a standard we want to put out there to the public. When we found out that that was the sort of turnaround times our patients and practitioners were experiencing, that's when we started to dig in and try to do better."

Gosnell said one of her colleagues has taken on the role of flight coordinator for any tests that need to be sent out by plane. She's been working with airlines that are willing to send flight crews to northern communities to take tests to the Lower Mainland, and getting people to drive around to the smaller collection sites to pick up tests.

"We've really had to increase our networking with other teams in each facility as well as across the province," Gosnell said.

Additionally, the University Hospital of Northern British Columbia started processing tests this week, so Prince George tests can be done locally. 

According to Ulrich, Terrace and Fort St. John will soon have the same capacity.

Northern Health issued an information bulletin this week encouraging anyone experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 to get tested. That comes after B.C. Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry expanded testing in B.C. on April 20 to anyone in the province experiencing symptoms.

With files from Daybreak North

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