Whitehorse clinic offering COVID-19 testing for travel, work

The Hummingbird Mobile Clinic is sending samples to a lab down south or processing them locally using a rapid-testing machine to provide COVID-19 test results for people who need them for either travel, work or just peace of mind.

Hummingbird Mobile Health has two kinds of testing available for asymptomatic people who need test results

Mieke Leonard, chief nursing officer at Hummingbird Mobile Health, poses for a photo with the bCUBE, a machine that enables rapid COVID testing, at the clinic's downtown Whitehorse office on Jan. 5, 2021. (Jackie Hong/CBC)

A private downtown Whitehorse clinic is offering COVID-19 testing services for people travelling, who need it for work or who just want "peace of mind." 

Hummingbird Mobile Health, which has provided occupational health screenings for the past six years, added COVID-19 testing to its roster in October after seeing a local demand from people who needed test results for either work or travel, chief nursing officer Mieke Leonard told CBC. 

Companies across the country, including in other parts of the North, have been offering private COVID-19 testing for awhile now, Leonard noted.

"I think it was just time that we actually provided that service here in the Yukon as well," she said. 

A bCUBE COVID rapid-test machine at Hummingbird Mobile Health in Whitehorse on Jan. 5, 2021. (Jackie Hong/CBC )

The clinic is offering two different kinds of tests, for about $285 each before tax — a nasal swab or saliva sample that then goes to a lab down south, or a RT-PCR test, which requires a nasal swab but can provide same-day results that can then be verified by a lab if needed. 

Leonard said Hummingbird is focusing on "asymptomatic folks" who, for example, are travelling to a country where they need to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test, or people working at mines. 

"Our publicly-funded health care system is managing symptomatic clients right now … if people want a peace-of-mind kind of test … should that go through a publicly-funded health care system or should it be sought out by other means?" she asked. 

"We chose to take that step to allow it to be offered by other means." 

A banner for Hummingbird Mobile Health hangs from a building on Strickland Street in downtown Whitehorse. Mieke Leonard says she still will advocate for people to get vaccinated. (Jackie Hong/CBC)

Hummingbird has tested more than 25 people so far, according to Leonard, and all the results have been negative. 

She added that in light of Yukon beginning to roll out the Moderna vaccine, she advocates for people to consider getting vaccinated.

"The way I look at it is, vaccines (and) practicing Safe Six, wearing masks, all of these things are just the tools in our toolkit to help fight the COVID-19 pandemic," Leonard said. 

"So the more we can integrate innovation, technology, start looking at ways of how we can manage this, then hopefully we can get to a point where we can conquer it." 

Written by Jackie Hong based on an interview by Elyn Jones