Frustration as officials work to increase Ottawa’s COVID-19 testing capacity

OTTAWA — It was another day of frustration and confusion for people seeking a COVID-19 test in Ottawa on Tuesday.

By noon on the day Ottawa reported its highest daily COVID-19 case count ever, three of the city’s four testing sites were unavailable to people seeking tests.

Hours before it opened at 9 a.m., the line at the Moodie Drive care clinic weaved through the parking lot and down the street.

“Get up around 4, maybe 3:30, and make sure your butt is here for 5:30, 6 o’clock,” said Daniel Branco, who waited five hours with his son and barely made it in. “They did the cut-off maybe 16 people past me.”

Others weren’t so lucky. Morgan Gould and her daughter Islah-Sky were given bracelets to come back later. On Monday, they were turned away altogether.

“We have lost two days of work, two sets of parents, because if theirs a chance that she could be sick we are not going back to our workplaces either,” Gould said.

The city’s two COVID-19 care clinics on Moodie Drive and Heron Road were both at capacity before noon on Tuesday.

The drive-in testing site on Coventry Road was open, but it’s by appointment only and has been fully booked two days in advance.

Officials are hard at work to expand the city’s testing capacity. CHEO announced Tuesday it’s launching an online booking system for testing children and youth at the Brewer Park Arena assessment centre.

“We’re pretty excited about this,” Tammy DeGiovanni, the director of ambulatory care at CHEO, told CTV News at Five. “We’ve been working on it for a bit, and I know this will be a welcome relief for parents.

Parents have been waiting in hours-long lineups there with their children to get tested. DeGiovanni said CHEO has tripled its capacity at the testing centre in the past month.

CHEO says next-day appointments will be released every evening at 8:30 p.m. There will still be limited space for walk-ins. Additional spots will be released throughout the day if people cancel their appointments.

There is no appointment booking for people 18 and over at Brewer; those tests are still walk-in only.

Speaking to media on Tuesday, medical officer of health Dr. Vera Etches says she’s recommending that the city’s local testing partners establish a centralized website to provide the latest information on locations, hours of operation and contact information.

She also is calling on expanding hours of operation to 12 hours a day, seven days a week.

The testing centres are operated by local hospitals.

Ottawa Public Health continues to recommend that people only get tested if they have symptoms or OPH instructs them to do so.

A new testing centre is planned for the Ray Friel Recreation Complex in Orleans, but it won’t be ready until mid-October because renovations are needed before it can open.

In the meantime, frustration continues for people waiting for tests.

“We need a lot more testing facilities,” Gould said. “They say don’t get tested if you don’t need to be, except you can’t send your kids to school you can’t do anything unless you have a positive test.”

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