The wait for coronavirus test results has blown out to more than a week for some patients as lab scientists are inundated with samples.
A Sydney corporate lawyer, Monique*, told Daily Mail Australia she flew home from a marathon work trip to the United States in late February.
Shortly afterwards, the lawyer suffered symptoms including a fever, headache and coughing. She was tested for COVID-19 on March 9.
But incredibly, the frustrated patient didn’t receive her results until March 17 – five full working days and a whole week later.
Her plight has led the New South Wales government to make the extraordinary admission patients who test negative are having to wait longer to get their results.
A nurse dressed in personal protective equipment speaks with patients at a new COVID-19 clinic in Adelaide on Tuesday
Lines for testing outside the Royal Melbourne Hospital coronavirus clinic last week – the beginning of an onslaught of testing
Monique said: ‘It’s been widely publicised that the test takes 48 hours – which appears to be true if you are a celebrity of a member of parliament.’
‘But that is not an accurate reflection of the time it takes at all’.
The lawyer said her experience shows the official totals of ‘positive’ cases are running up to a week behind when tests are conducted.
A typical COVID-19 test takes about six to eight hours to complete.
CORONAVIRUS CASES IN AUSTRALIA: 452
New South Wales: 210
South Australia: 32
Western Australia: 28
Northern Territory: 1
Australian Capital Territory: 2
TOTAL CASES: 452
A NSW Health Pathology spokeswoman admitted negative results were taking ‘several days’ to be issued to patients.
The spokeswoman said patients who test positive ‘are reported immediately to the referring doctor and public health unit (PHU) in line with high risk results procedures.
‘Negative results are typically issued to the referring doctor and PHU within a day,’ the spokeswoman said.
But she added: ‘The exceptionally high rate of negative results is taking several days to be issued to patients with positive patients the priority.
Monique’s GP said the reason for her hold-up was that all tests in greater Sydney were being referred to a lab at Westmead Hospital.
The government spokeswoman said the state currently has four clinics – the Institute for Clinical Pathology and Medical Research at Westmead, Prince of Wales Hospital at Randwick, Liverpool, and Royal Prince Alfred.
The testing labs are churning through 1500 tests a day.
This is what a negative coronavirus test looks like: Monique’s test, as provided to Daily Mail Australia, warns the disease ‘poses a serious risk to public health’
REAL VIRUS TOLL HIGHER, EXPERT SUGGESTS
Paul Komesaroff, the professor of medicine at Monash University, said: ‘You could certainly make the case’ official virus numbers are below the true number.
‘That’s not the fault of the authorities.
‘It’s a result of the fact we know there are many infections that are asymptomatic, and that the virus is being transmitted within the Australian community’.
Prof Komesaroff said Australia needs more COVID-19 tests, and hopefully, a ‘quicker and more rapidly available’ way to test for the illness in the future.
While Monique languished in quarantine for a week, other patients tested recently reported getting their results back within one or two days.
Another person who tested negative for the coronavirus said a doctor examined her even though she hadn’t been abroad, or in contact with a known victim.
‘I presented at the emergency department at Sydney’s Prince of Wales hospital last week,’ the patient said.
‘I hadn’t been abroad, or been in contact with a known victim of the virus, but a lovely doctor agreed to test me anyway.
‘I was worried as I developed a really bad cold after a friend had been visiting from abroad and staying in my apartment.
‘It turns out a coronavirus patient had been on his Qatar flight to Sydney, but a week previously.
Inside Sydney’s Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, patients waiting to see a doctor were seated more than a metre apart to prevent the spread of the virus
‘I was told those circumstances weren’t ‘officially’ enough to get me tested, but she kindly said she would make an exception.
‘Afterwards, I had to go home and self-isolate until I received my test results, but it only took 24 hours.
‘But I’m one of the lucky ones, I only waited 90 minutes at the ED and 24 hours for results.
‘If I did the same now, just seven days later, who knows what would have happened.’
Another patient, tested at the city’s Royal Prince Alfred Hospital just last week, said she had a quick experience.
‘I got tested on Monday night, my swabs were taken about 7pm.
‘I was told it could take up to 72 hours because they were “super busy at the moment”. But I found out Wednesday 11am.’
* Not her real name
If you believe you have coronavirus you should call your GP or ring the national Coronavirus Health Information Hotline on 1800 020 080.
‘TEST, TEST, TEST’ TO STOP OUTBREAK, SAYS WORLD HEALTH ORGANISATION
Countries must ‘test, test, test’ to beat the COVID-19 outbreak, the World Health Organisation’s director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said overnight.
But national guildeines said that only people who have returned from overseas, or who have confirmed contact with coronavirus sufferers, should be tested.
And as things stand, that’s the way it should remain, said Paul Komesaroff, the professor of medicine at Monash University – because by all reports there are not enough test kits.
‘There’s still strong justification for limiting the availability for the tests simply on the basis that the resources are extremely limited,’ Prof Komesaroff said.
‘It’s very clear what we need is availability both of this test but perhaps more importantly of a future yet to be developed test which is much quicker and more readily available.’
Australian National University infectious diseases expert Dr Sanjaya Senanayake said he believed the WHO advice was aimed at countries other than Australia.
Australian National University infectious diseases expert Dr Sanjaya Senanayake
‘I think he was targeting those countries that are out of control in terms of their transmission such as Italy, rather than countries like Australia,’ he said.
‘The message overall is of course it’s important to test but particularly for those countries out of control at the moment.’
Dr Senanayake said he ‘hoped’ the true number of coronavirus cases was not much bigger than the official test results.