New Brunswick

Some COVID-19 test requests lost in 'technical glitch' fax backlog

Some online requests for COVID-19 tests got lost in the "technical glitch" involving fax machines that contributed to a backlog of requests, CBC News has learned.

Test backlog stands at 690 people and 1,760 people are self-isolating

Public Health is investigating after some of the online requests for COVID-19 tests, which are sent by fax to the designated assessment centre, got lost in a 'technical glitch.' (Shutterstock)

Some online requests for COVID-19 tests got lost in the "technical glitch" involving fax machines that contributed to a backlog of requests, CBC News has learned.

"We are investigating and do no believe this is widespread," Public Health spokesperson Bruce Macfarlane said in an emailed statement late Friday.

It's unclear whether those affected will now drop to the bottom of the wait list.

As of Friday at 4:30 p.m., the backlog stood at 690 people — 350 in the Saint John health region (Zone 2) and 340 in the Fredericton region, said Macfarlane.

He did not say what the backlog was at its peak.

The number of people self-isolating has reached 1,760 — 1,000 in the Saint John region, 386 in the Moncton region (Zone 1) and 377 in the Fredericton region. All three regions are in the orange phase of COVID-19 recovery.

Contact tracing has established links between at least two of the regions, Macfarlane confirmed, without elaborating.

He did not say how many of those in isolation are health-care workers, but there were "upwards of about 74" in the Saint John area alone on Thursday, Dr. Jennifer Russell, the chief medical officer of health, had said.

"Some" of the people isolating "may be waiting on their Day 10 test if they got caught in the fax backlog," said Macfarlane.

New goal to clear backlog

Russell had hoped to have the backlog rectified by Friday, at the latest.

Public Health now anticipates clearing the backlog by the end of the weekend, said Macfarlane.

Processing capacity continues to be expanded, he said.

Public Health hopes to have the testing backlog cleared by the end of the weekend, said spokesperson Bruce Macfarlane. (Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press file photo)

Another testing queue has been established at the Capital Exhibit Centre in Fredericton, and another assessment site will be operating within the city limits "very shortly."

In Saint John, an additional assessment site is now operating at St. James the Less Church, 1750 Rothesay Rd., and additional queues have been set up at the Ropewalk Road location.

Why faxes are used

During Wednesday's COVID-19 news conference, Health Minister Dorothy Shephard told reporters that a "technical glitch" earlier this week had delayed online test requests getting through to schedulers.

On Thursday, Russell revealed that it "had to do with fax machines" in the Fredericton health region, Zone 3.

"My understanding is that's been resolved," she added.

Dr. Jennifer Russell, the chief medical officer of health, revealed the 'technical glitch' involved fax machines during Thursday's COVID-19 news conference in Fredericton. (Submitted by the Government of New Brunswick)

Asked for more information about the glitch, Macfarlane said only: "There was some backlog created by fax machine but largely was the result of an increase in demand for COVID-19 testing."

The online registration forms for COVID-19 tests are received by the designated testing centres by fax, said Macfarlane.

Asked why faxes are used, he replied: "With assessment centres being set up and taken down throughout the province on a as needed bases, fax machines have been used in this infrastructure due to their ease of mobility and for confidentiality."

He did not elaborate. The Department of Health has electronic medical records. The transition program to an e-health system was implemented in 2012.

Positivity rate

New Brunswick's COVID-19 positivity rate between Nov. 11 and Nov. 25 was 0.9 per cent, said Macfarlane.

That means of the 690 backlogged, waiting to be tested, about six will likely test positive.

By comparison, the national positivity rate is 3.1 per cent. Across Canada, 5,967 cases were reported Friday.


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversationCreate account

Already have an account?