Montreal

Province should have been ready before asking all Montreal bar-goers to get tested, says mayor

New COVID-19 testing sites are opening in Montreal, as bar-goers line up around the block to get tested and the provincial government struggles to catch up to the demand.

More testing sites to open in Montreal, as people line up for hours to get a COVID-19 test

Hundreds of people line up at a COVID-19 testing clinic on Tuesday in Montreal. The city has recommended that anyone who has been in a bar since July 1 to get tested. (Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press)

New COVID-19 testing sites are opening in Montreal, as bar-goers line up around the block to get tested and the provincial government struggles to catch up to the demand.

Public health officials in Montreal have been asking for the government to increase testing sites since the call went out last Saturday for everyone who'd been in a bar since July 1 to get tested.

On Wednesday, the provincial government announced it was looking into it.

"It takes some time to mobilize human resources," said Dr. Richard Massé, a senior public health adviser to the province, at a news conference. "It's not a question of tests, per se, because the tests are available. It's really the issue of mobilizing nurses and other technicians to support the screening activities."

He said officials are looking for ways to increase testing to 200 per hour at Montreal's old Hôtel-Dieu hospital, a COVID-19 testing site that has seen some of the longest lineups.

But Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante says that work should have been done before the provincial government asked thousands of bar-goers to get tested.

"I'm pleased and very proud that so many Montrealers responded, 'yes, I'm going to get tested.' But [they] are waiting in line for four or five hours," said Plante.

"I expect that if you make such a big call ... there have to be enough resources to respond quickly."

WATCH: Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante on COVID-19 testing capacity
Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante says she is looking at how wait times can be reduced after every Montrealer who has visited a bar this month was asked by public health to be tested for COVID-19 0:56

Plante said the city has offered the public transit buses that were transformed into mobile testing clinics in May and are no longer in use. She said she had also asked for more testing sites, but agreed that nurses and health-care workers have to be found to staff them.

Four new testing sites are opening this week:

  • On Thursday, a walk-in clinic at 544 Davaar Avenue in Outremont will operate from 1 p.m. until 8 p.m.
  • On Thursday, a mobile clinic at 9600 St-Denis Street in Ahuntsic-Cartierville will operate from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m.
  • On Friday, tests will be offered at the chalet in Pierre-Bédard Park in Mercier-Hochelaga-Maisonneuve from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m. 
  • A walk-in clinic will be offered by the MUHC at the superhospital, 1001 Décarie Boulevard, from Thursday until Sunday. It will operate from 12 p.m. until 8 p.m. on Thursday and Friday and from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. 

There are six other sites offering testing on the island of Montreal.

Testing situation needs 'urgent attention, yesterday'

Some experts say this situation reflects the poor job Quebec has done in making testing available to the public.

We'll be living with the virus for at least a few months, said Dr. Cédric Yansouni, a microbiologist and infectious diseases specialist at the McGill University Health Centre. In order to contain the virus, he said the public needs to have easy access to testing.

Many people cannot afford to miss a day of work to get tested, he said, and there is no reason why the province has not got its mobile units up and running.

"These are things that are imminently fixable and that require urgent attention — yesterday," Yansouni said.

Those who get tested should also be able to find out their results quickly without having to call and be put on hold, Yansouni said. In South Korea, for example, people have been tested en masse and received their results within hours by phone, he said.

"We're lucky to have a relative lull in transmission right now. It is very important that these things be worked out and implemented right away."

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