2 new COVID-19 testing sites on the way in Ottawa

After complaints about hours-long waits to get a COVID-19 test in Ottawa, health officials say another testing facility could open this month.

4th site could be up and running by month's end, drive-thru being explored

People have complained about having to line up for hours waiting for a COVID-19 test at one of three facilities in Brewer Park, Bells Corners and Alta Vista. (Francis Ferland/CBC)

After complaints about the wait to get a COVID-19 test in Ottawa, health officials say another testing facility could open this month.

Currently, the general public can visit one of three test sites, including the Brewer Park Arena. People have complained they're forced to wait in line for hours to get that test.

"We're doing what we can and we'll continue to strive to do more to reduce those waits," said Dr. Alan Forster, vice-president of innovation and quality with the Ottawa Hospital.

He said plans are in the works for both a new testing centre and a drive-thru centre.

"People will essentially drive up, they'll get a test and then they'll drive away."

He said on CBC Radio's Ottawa Morning Wednesday such a site is "quite close" to launching. An exact location has not been found but he said they're looking for a large parking lot in a part of the city without a test site.

A worker at a COVID-19 drive-thru test centre in Casselman, Ont., east of Ottawa, on April 2, 2020. (Frédéric Pepin/Radio-Canada)

That format could come in handy when temperatures drop this winter, but the number of tests needed could increase.

The hope is to get the first of these new assessment centres up and running before school starts.

Plan to double capacity

In addition to having more testing sites, health officials continue to work to expand staffing and testing at the current sites.

"We're going to need increased test sites, but also increased hours of operation with our existing test sites," Forster said.

Dr. Alan Forster says health officials are considering what it would take to prevent people from having to wait hours in the cold for a test once temperatures drop. (Hallie Cotnam/CBC)

Since the start of the year, health officials in the city have gone from having no testing capacity to being able to get through as many as 3,000 tests a day, said Forster.

He said the plan is to more than double that capacity by late fall.

Another way health officials are looking at streamlining the testing process is cutting out a medical assessment for those who don't need one.

Not everyone who gets tested has symptoms or needs the screening, he said, but just wants the test.

The Ottawa Hospital says it’s working with Ottawa Public Health and Ontario Health to expand the city’s testing capacity as quickly as possible to support the increased demand. 9:20

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