Saskatchewan

Sask. WCB stands firm on requiring COVID-19 PCR test, but will treat applications on case-by-case basis

"'We don't want access to testing to be a barrier to a worker being able to receive the support that they need."

The WCB covers COVID-19 claims if there is a confirmed link between an employee's exposure and their job

Vehicles in line at the COVID-19 drive-thru testing site at the old Costco building in Regina, Sask. on Jan. 6, 2021. (Radio-Canada)

The Saskatchewan Workers' Compensation Board is standing firm on its requirement for a PCR test in order to process COVID-19-related claims. 

At a provincial COVID-19 update on Thursday, Jennifer Norleen-Beitel, the vice president of operations with the Saskatchewan Workers' Compensation Board (WCB), said the organization will look for a PCR test but will consider other information. 

"There could be cases where someone has a report from a physician or if they're in a hospital, there might be hospital reports that we look at, so it would be like any other claim," she said. 

The WCB covers COVID-19 claims if there is a confirmed link between an employee's exposure and their job.

It has previously told CBC News that the results of an antigen test will not be accepted, as there is "no way to obtain a medical report confirming" the results. Compensation from the organization requires a medical diagnosis in a medical report, a spokesperson previously told CBC News. 

That has drawn concern from some people, who point out that if a person catches COVID-19 while on the job and then develops long COVID symptoms later on, they may not have proof of a PCR test on their health record. 

It's even more of a concern as Saskatchewan shifts how it tests for COVID-19 in an attempt to preserve testing capacity as the Omicron variant spreads across Canada. 

A shift in testing

Last month, the provincial government began advising people that if they test positive on a rapid antigen test and are asymptomatic they should assume they have COVID-19.

The province no longer recommends confirming a diagnosis through PCR testing and instead says people should self-isolate when they test positive on a rapid test.

On Wednesday, Saskatchewan went even further and said only those with serious symptoms, as well as those who work in health care, or long-term and personal care homes, should get a PCR test. 

For those who are interested in making a WCB claim, Norleen-Beitel recommended using private clinics licensed to provide testing. 

"We will look at reimbursing private test expenses if a workplace exposure is under review or if it's proven to be linked in the workplace," Norleen-Beitel said. "We don't want access to testing to be a barrier to a worker being able to receive the support that they need."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Alexander Quon was born and raised in Regina, Saskatchewan. He has an interest in data reporting and political coverage. You'll find him reporting on COVID-19, Regina city council and provincial politics. He started at CBC Saskatchewan in 2021 after spending the first four years of his career in Atlantic Canada.

With files from Kendall Latimer

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