Shortage of rapid COVID-19 tests in medical clinics and nursing homes

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A shortage of rapid antigen tests in Ontario has caused doctors to scramble to find tests to keep clinics open and some family members cannot visit loved ones in nursing homes during the holidays, has learned this journal.

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This week, Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health acknowledged that a global shortage of rapid antigen tests makes it harder for the government to get them, at a time when the PCR testing system is overwhelmed by a record increase in Omicron cases. .

“Testing is a luxury” during the Omicron wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr. Kieran Moore said in an update Thursday.

The province expects to receive more than 100 million rapid antigen tests this month, officials said this week. The province purchased 65 million tests in December and January, which will be used in healthcare and long-term care homes, as well as other gathering places.

Last month, as the Omicron wave began to spread exponentially across Ontario, the provincial government limited PCR testing, considered the gold standard, to healthcare workers and the most vulnerable as the laboratory testing system was overwhelmed. People have been asked to rely on rapid antigenic tests for proof of the diagnosis.

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Rapid tests, which are increasingly rare, are now also a priority for the most vulnerable, including long-term care homes and hospitals.

This week, Moore said people should assume they have COVID-19 if they have symptoms compatible with it.

Testing shortages also affect parts of the healthcare system.

Because they can’t get rapid tests, some doctors struggle to keep their community practices open, which could put more strain on hospital emergency rooms.

Manotick’s doctor Dr Victor Sandu said his office was still awaiting a delivery of 100 rapid test kits he ordered on December 15. Prior to that, the province routinely delivered rapid tests to medical offices.

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Sandu said this week that his clinic is almost running out of rapid tests.

“If a staff member has exposures or symptoms and they are not tested, we will have big problems, which means patients are flooding the ER for minor issues,” he said.

“There is no access to rapid antigenic tests in primary care. We buy them from scalpers like the general public.

Sandu said he has spoken to other primary care doctors who are also unable to get rapid tests.

The availability of rapid antigen testing in doctor’s offices means staff can return to work sooner. Moore said Thursday that asymptomatic people who have two negative rapid antigen tests 24 hours apart can leave isolation earlier than the five days now required for people who have received two doses of the vaccine. Without sufficient testing, this option is not available to primary caregivers and their staff or other essential workers.

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Moore said the province is “doing its best to increase the availability” of rapid tests.

The shortage of rapid tests has also hit long-term care homes and retirement homes over the holidays, said Lisa Levin, CEO of AdvantAge Ontario, the organization that represents long-term care and residential housing. older nonprofit, municipal and charitable organizations in the province.

Levin said during the vacation that his organization had started hearing from homes that were not receiving rapid tests on a regular basis. Before that, shipments arrived regularly.

Rapid testing is the key to long-term care and retirement homes right now. Staff are tested regularly in order to continue working amid growing epidemics. Essential caregivers should also test before going.

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Levin said supplies had started to flow to senior residences again since the government started rationing them. “But it’s not perfect.”

“It was definitely a challenge to pass the tests.”

Health Ministry spokeswoman Alexandra Hilkene said delivery hours had been reduced during the holidays, but “we continued to work to ensure that rapid antigen testing is available and a priority for our sectors. the most vulnerable, including retirement homes and long-term care.

“Ontario is experiencing temporary supply constraints, including delays in federal government shipments, resulting in a limited supply of rapid tests,” she added. “Distribution is currently a priority for our most vulnerable sectors… with the aim of preserving the critical capacities of human resources in health and protecting people working and living in environments most at risk. This includes the use of a rapid antigen test for the ‘workplace test’ in which staff who have been exposed to COVID-19 can return to work to support essential services such as healthcare, while ‘he would otherwise be isolated at home. “

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An Ottawa woman told this newspaper that she was forced to stand in line at 5:30 a.m. during the holidays to take rapid tests which were handed out at an Ottawa mall so she could visit her mother in a nursing home who required testing but did not. I do not have any tests available.

Levin said some homes have had to limit the number of family caregivers who can come in during the holidays due to the testing shortage.

She said it was difficult for the homes at an already difficult time.

“It’s scary when you barely have enough tests and don’t know what’s next.”

Grace Welch, chair of the Champlain Region Family Councils Network advocacy committee, said she was concerned that homes still did not have enough tests to run daily tests. Some homes test staff twice a week and others three times a week before going to work.

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“I think anyone who walks into homes should be tested on a daily basis. Twice a week is not enough. If you want to avoid this, this is what you need to do.

His concerns come as the number of long-term care epidemics in the province grows day by day, prompting the province to call in the military.

“In just 48 hours, the number of long-term care residents infected with COVID-19 has dropped from 571 to 1,053. Nearly 2,000 long-term care staff are now on sick leave and unable to work.” , tweeted Dr. Amit Arya, palliative care physician and health and human rights advocate.

“This is another humanitarian disaster. So why isn’t the Ontario government calling the military?

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