Manitoba

Winnipeg man says he was told by hospital COVID-19 test results could take up to 14 days

A Winnipegger says he's been told he could wait up to two weeks to learn whether he has coronavirus, and he's worried confusion at the hospital could indicate Manitoba is ill-prepared to deal with a potential outbreak.

Manitoba Health says coronavirus test results should only take 24-48 hours

Tim Thiessen is currently in quarantine in his Winnipeg home, after falling ill following a trip to Italy. He says he's been told he may have to wait up to 14 days to find out if he has COVID-19. (Skype)

A Winnipegger says he's been told he might have to wait up to two weeks to learn whether he has coronavirus.

Tim Thiessen says he's concerned confusion at the hospital about his test results is a sign Manitoba may be ill-prepared to deal with a potential outbreak.

"It's profoundly frustrating," he said. "I don't want to infect anyone else, but two weeks is a long time to wait.

"There is such a disconnect and confusion about what was going on."

The 61-year-old went to Seven Oaks General Hospital's urgent care on Monday for a COVID-19 test after experiencing flu-like symptoms. He was told he would have to wait 48 hours to get results.

But when Thiessen called back on Wednesday morning, he says hospital staff at Seven Oaks told him he would actually have to wait seven to 14 days.

The province's chief medical officer previously said that test results for COVID-19 should be available in about a day.

Province says tests should only take 48 hours

CBC News has asked Manitoba Health and the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority for clarification about how the test results are being handled and what sort of wait times are currently in place.

A spokesperson for Manitoba Health said the testing is done at Winnipeg's Cadham Provincial Laboratory, and the wait time is currently 24-48 hours from when the lab gets the sample.

The province said it could not discuss individual cases, or explain why Thiessen was told by both the hospital and his doctor the results would take so long.

"I'm not aware of any specifics related to that, but currently the turnaround time is roughly 24 hours once the specimen is received at the lab," said Dr. Brent Roussin, the province's chief public health officer on Thursday.

"Certainly as we're increasing the amount of test volume, that might increase."

On Thursday, the province confirmed Manitoba's first three cases of COVID-19.

Hospital staff confused and flustered: patient

Thiessen was in Italy in February, a country now on the front line of the coronavirus pandemic. After developing symptoms including a cough, runny nose and fever, he decided to get checked out at the hospital.

"I right away put a mask on," he said. "I saw a doctor, and of course because they were suspicious that I might have exposure to corona[virus], they had me sit in a different area and wait."

After being tested for COVID-19 and getting an x-ray, Thiessen was given a doctor's note that covered three days away from work. The urgent care physician told him to quarantine himself until the test results came back.

But when Thiessen tried to get the results on Wednesday, he was bounced between the hospital and his family doctor's office, both of which seemed confused and overwhelmed, he said.

"I phoned my doctor and said, 'Have you got results for me?' They said, 'I don't know what you're talking about.… We didn't even know you had seen someone.'

"They said, 'Well it takes seven days to get the results,' and I said, 'What?'"

Told to return to urgent care for doctor's note

When his family doctor's office wouldn't write him a new note saying he should stay in quarantine, Thiessen contacted the hospital to see if he could get one from them.

"She says, 'Yeah OK, you can come in, but you have to sit in our waiting room, and there's a four-hour wait right now in order to talk to a doctor and get another note.'"

Thiessen was shocked that the hospital recommended he leave quarantine just so he could get a doctor's note.

"None of this made sense to me."

That's when he says hospital staff told him the wait for results could be 14 days. 

Tim Thiessen, pictured here at the Colosseum in Rome, recently returned from Italy. When he started feeling flu-like symptoms, he went to get tested at Seven Oaks urgent care on Monday. Despite being told it would only take 48 hours, Thiessen has been waiting for results since Monday. (Provided/Tim Thiessen)

Thiessen said he figured Manitoba's health-care system would have a streamlined plan for COVID-19 testing and communicating with patients.

"It's disjointed at best. It's not well-co-ordinated. I'm not sure if people are communicating with each other in the system or that there is a clear message … for everyone in the system," he said.

He worries about Manitoba's preparedness.

"I've got a fair concern, that in the meantime while there's confusion, cases might be spreading," he said.

"It did not seem from this experience that the system is terribly ready."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Marina von Stackelberg is a senior reporter currently working for CBC's Parliamentary Bureau in Ottawa. She previously worked as a reporter and host in Winnipeg, with earlier stints in Halifax and Sudbury. Her stories regularly appear across the country on CBC Radio and CBC News Network. Connect with her by email at mvs@cbc.ca or on social media @CBCMarina.

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