Manitoba needs centralized database for test results from rapid COVID-19 tests: NDP

The Manitoba NDP warns the shift to self-administered rapid tests for COVID-19 could leave Manitobans without help or protection when it comes to accessing supports in the future. The Opposition says a centralized database for test results is needed.

Database could help Manitobans filing for workers' compensation, disability, insurance claims, Opposition says

Manitoba NDP Leader Wab Kinew says the provincial government needs to roll out a centralized database that will allow people to report their rapid test results. (CBC)

The Manitoba NDP is raising concerns a shift to self-administered rapid tests and diagnosis for COVID-19 could leave Manitobans without help or protection when it comes to accessing supports in the future.

The Opposition party is calling on the province's Progressive Conservative government to create a centralized database for Manitobans to report their rapid test results.

A database would help people filing for workers' compensation, disability insurance or private insurance coverage in the future, NDP Leader Wab Kinew said Tuesday at the legislature.

"They would be able to refer back to this government record, this online database as proof [of COVID-19-positive status] and as help when they're making that filing," Kinew said.

A database would also provide a better picture of the spread of COVID-19, particularly cases caused by the highly transmissible Omicron coronavirus variant, he said.

"We think that this is an important tool that the government should put together soon, and should make available to the people of Manitoba."

Rapid test results accepted: WCB

The Workers Compensation Board of Manitoba says it does require evidence to support a COVID-19 claim, but it has recently started accepting positive rapid test results as confirmation "due to the significant restrictions that Manitoba Public Health has put on the availability of PCR testing," a spokesperson said in an email to CBC.

Earlier this month, the province altered its COVID-19 testing protocols, limiting the number of people who have to get a more accurate PCR test following a positive result using a rapid antigen test, in the wake of an extensive backlog in testing specimens.

On Monday, the province said that testing backlog has been cleared.

However, the results of rapid tests are not included in the province's official tally of COVID-19 cases.

The NDP says a lack of public reporting on those tests could cause difficulties for Manitobans who contract COVID-19 to prove it later when applying for coverage, since their medical records will not necessarily show they contracted the illness.

NDP health critic Uzoma Asagwara says the more data the province can collect during the pandemic about how COVID-19 is affecting Manitobans, the better — particularly in light of the 418 COVID-19 hospitalizations reported Tuesday, the highest number since the province started reporting that statistic daily.

"This is information that we can use to better identify where transmission is happening to better understand who is being affected by COVID," the Union Station MLA said.

A centralized database could also help Manitobans whose employers require documentation to show they've had a positive rapid test, said Asagwara.

Manitoba could show leadership in collecting that type of information, including the ability to capture results retroactively, they said.

"This is an opportunity for the government to establish something that's necessary, and we're encouraging them, as we always do, to also take the steps needed to make sure that our public health-care system is bolstered overall," including enhanced capacity to complete PCR (polymerase chain reaction) tests, said Asagwara.

New Brunswick has said it will make COVID-19 rapid test results public by the end of this week.

Union Station MLA and provincial NDP health critic Uzoma Asagwara says Manitoba can become a leader by collecting rapid testing information from the public and recording it in an online database. (CBC)

If there are concerns around privacy, Asagwara says the provincial government has the tools and resources to ensure that.

"And quite frankly, they have the responsibility to establish this, to make sure that folks have a place where those tests can be reported for themselves, for their loved ones, in their family, and they can be accessed when needed."

When asked to comment on the NDP's proposal, a government spokesperson said the results of some rapid tests are recorded in the province's health database, but only when "administered in a controlled environment," such as by clinical staff at testing sites.

To augment this, the spokesperson said the province has been looking at options for self-reporting of rapid tests.

The province also announced Tuesday that it will expand rapid testing for designated critical service workers.

The tests were already provided for asymptomatic staff designated under public health orders who have not provided proof of COVID-19 vaccination.

Eligibility for rapid tests is now being expanded to include all designated staff who are symptomatic and work in schools, early learning and child-care facilities, and with child and family services group care providers, among others, the province says.

Program details are being finalized and it is expected the programs will be in place by Jan. 17.


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