P.E.I. considering mobile COVID-19 testing after truckers complain
'We are looking at ways to make it easier for truckers to get tested'
Some P.E.I. truckers who use the Confederation Bridge are questioning P.E.I. Public Health's decision to remove the COVID-19 testing site in Borden-Carleton and now P.E.I. Public Health is considering adding another option for truckers coming into the province.
P.E.I. Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Heather Morrison said at Tuesday's news briefing she has heard the concerns of truckers who say the wait times for testing are too long now that the Borden-Carleton testing site has been shut down.
Truckers now have to call to make an appointment in Charlottetown or Summerside but it can take up to two days to get tested.
"We are looking at ways to make it easier for truckers to get tested and are exploring a mobile testing option," Morrison said, adding more details will be available in the days ahead.
Morrison said truckers provide an essential service to the province.
"We will continue to support testing to keep them safe," she said.
Ivan Paynter is an Island truck driver who makes regular trips to the United States for Tempo Transport Inc. based in Fredericton, N.B.
He says he is "not happy at all" about the testing site closing because it takes too long to get tested at other facilities.
"Now they have a number. I called it there on Friday just to see what was going on and that's what it tells me, it will take 24 to 48 hours to get a return phone call," Paynter said.
Paynter has been on the road since June 26.
"With this change I have to wait 24 to 48 hours to get a call back to get an appointment," he said.
Paynter said he is only off for a few days and if he has to wait the full 48 hours to set up an appointment and then another 24 hour to get the results back — he may already be out on the road wondering about his test results.
"I don't go home unless I get a negative. The last thing I want to do is drag that down to my house, contaminate my car, contaminate my wife," he said, adding that he has contacted MLA Hal Perry who raised the issue in the P.E.I. Legislature Friday.
In a memo sent by P.E.I. Public Health on June 30 to the P.E.I. Trucking Council, truckers were notified that the COVID-19 testing site in Borden-Carleton would shut down July 3.
"With the development of an Atlantic Canadian travel bubble, the need to test truck drivers who are asymptomatic and have only traveled within Atlantic Canada is now removed," the memo said.
Island truckers who travel outside Atlantic Canada will need to continue to be tested, but because the site near the Confederation Bridge shut down they will have to call public health to book an appointment, the memo said.
Roger Gallant is another Island trucker. He drives for Midland Transport and he said he had no problems with the process in Borden-Carleton and doesn't know why it was taken away.
Gallant said when testing was being done in Borden-Carleton he would drive his truck to the weight scales near the Confederation Bridge and he would be asked where he had traveled from.
"They would radio to the nurses at the station, you went over, you phoned, gave them your information," he said. "Then went in and did the two-second test and left again."
Gallant said the nurses and the people asking questions at the border were always great to deal with.
"A lot of truckers need that easy system on the way home and the quick response of our test results."
Now, Gallant said he has to call public health to schedule a COVID-19 test in Charlottetown at the Eastlink Centre or at Slemon Park in Summerside.
"When you phone they are going to call you back," he said. "That could take up to 48 hours. To even get to talk to somebody, to even get an appointment that might take another day and most of us are not home that long."
Gallant said he came back to the P.E.I. on Friday, he didn't get a test until Sunday and now he is back on the road headed for the U.S.
While speaking to CBC News, Gallant got a call.
"That was my test result … negative," he said.
Both Gallant and Paynter said they would like to see the COVID-19 testing station restored in Borden-Carleton.
Gallant said getting testing there was more convenient than having it done in Charlottetown this past weekend.
"Not the experience of going and getting it done. It's just to try and get a time to get it done, where we didn't need a time it was first come, first served in Borden," Gallant said.
In the memo sent by Public Health there are also guidelines for what truckers have to do. Island truckers are being asked to go to testing sites in a personal passenger vehicle due to space limitations, have their P.E.I. health card with them and are not to open the window until directed.
Truckers coming off the ferry in Wood Islands are facing a similar situation as the testing site there has closed too.
CBC News contacted the P.E.I. Trucking Sector Council for further comment but did not hear back.