Kitchener-Waterloo

Grandmother worries she has COVID-19 but struggles to access testing

A Kitchener family says better information about COVID-19 testing for people with disabilities is needed, after spending more than a week trying to find a solution for a grandmother.

Granddaughter spent a week trying to figure out testing for symptomatic grandmother

Kathy Pushie said she hasn't seen her granddaughter and great-grandson in weeks because she doesn't want to put her family at risk. (Submitted by Taylor Breen)

A Kitchener woman says better information about COVID-19 testing for people with disabilities is needed, after spending more than a week trying to find a solution for her grandmother.

Kathy Pushie, 62, has been experiencing COVID-19 symptoms for the past week and is anxious to get a test. But her osteoarthritis makes it tough to get around, and she doesn't drive.

Pushie said she would normally get a ride with her granddaughter, but doesn't want to put her great-grandchildren, one of whom has asthma, at risk.

For the same reason, she's reluctant to take public transit or a taxi to a testing centre.

"I'm afraid to go around anybody," Pushie told CBC News.  

Pushie said she's called TeleHealth Ontario twice looking for advice but hasn't gotten far. The first time she was given a list of testing centres in the region. The second time, she said she was told she'd get a call back — and never did.  

Pushie's granddaughter, Taylor Breen, checked the Region of Waterloo Public Health website for information about mobile testing but came up short.

"My grandmother and I both feel that more thorough information for those with disabilities needs to be available because right now the majority of the information out there is for generally healthy people," said Breen.

 "So when you add in mobility issues or other disabilities, it can be hard to figure out what we're supposed to do."

Edward Faruzel, executive director of KW AccessAbility, said he's heard about others who've had problems getting tested.

He noted that many people with disabilities don't drive, and that MobilityPLUS users have to pass screening questions before getting on board. 

"It makes it more challenging," said Faruzel. 

Mobile testing available

Regional public health told CBC News mobile testing is available for those who can't leave their homes due to a medical condition, although Breen said that information hasn't been clear on the public health website. 

"Neither my grandmother nor I was able to find that information [online]," said Breen.

In response to inquiries from CBC News, regional public health said it plans to update its website to clarify the referral process for mobile testing. 

Anyone who needs a test, and physically cannot get to a testing centre, should call their family doctor, walk-in clinic or an assessment centre about a referral, according to infectious diseases manager David Aoki.  

Aoki said those concerned about safety and who don't have access to transportation can call regional public health, who will try to troubleshoot the situation.

Breen is glad to hear that public health is updating its website and hopes that future communications about COVID-19 will consider the needs of people with disabilities.

Faruzel agreed. He says public health should also consider other forms of communication, such as mailers included with ODSP payments, so that people without internet access know what options they have.

Increase accessibility

Breen and Pushie say ongoing, mobile testing in the community — similar to the Sanguen community health van — would be another helpful measure.

In Toronto, pop-up clinics have been set up as a way to decrease barriers to testing in a part of the city hit hard by the coronavirus.  

"A mobile unit would be wonderful, it would make things so much easier," said Pushie.

Meanwhile, as of Thursday afternoon Pushie is still waiting to hear back from TeleHealth.

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Health said TeleHealth Ontario is experiencing higher call volumes, and that people may wait longer to speak to a nurse. The province said it is working to answer more calls and ensure timely responses. 


Region of Waterloo Public Health can be reached at 519-575-4400. 

Taylor Breen says public health could be clearer about what people who don't have easy access to transit are supposed to do, in order to get to a testing site. (Submitted by Taylor Breen)

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