The province is working on a way for Prince Edward Islanders to access their COVID-19 test results online.
In a statement released to CBC News, officials with the Chief Public Health Office and Health PEI said the goal is to ensure electronic access to these results is safe and secure.
"There is still some work to be carried out before the details of this initiative are ready to be shared with Islanders," the statement said. For the time being, anyone with a positive test result will still be contacted directly by a member of the public health office.
Some Islanders — and some members of the opposition — have been critical of wait times when it comes to the 811 telehealth service that is supposed to speed testing for COVID-19, with some saying it is taking several days to reach a health professional.
811 wait times hard on the self-employed
Islander Carina Phillips said it took several days to get a call back from 811 last week about her 16-month-old son's runny nose — and as a self-employed farmer, it meant she had to take a few days off work to care for the child, who couldn't go to daycare.
"I had to stay home and take care of him while my husband worked alone in the field," said Phillips. "So it was just a hard week, meeting our order deadlines. We have restaurants and customers that we need to get our produce to at a certain time, so it was hard being short-staffed."
After calling 811 on Tuesday, she also tried to get an appointment with her family doctor, but that person was working in a hospital at the time. Because of the 811 wait times, walk-in clinics were filling up fast as well — so her only option was to keep her son home with her for a few days. By Friday, his nose was no longer runny and she brought him back to daycare — only to get a call back from 811 later that morning.
For Phillips, not being able to work means less produce could be harvested for the family to sell at the Charlottetown Farmer's Market at the end of the week. She's concerned about what will happen when schools reopen and the normally common runny nose keeps other children home — with their parents unable to work.
"Being self-employed, we don't have any sick leave, and a lot of jobs don't have sick leave, so I think we need to look to more long-term solutions," said Phillips.
"We can't be waiting three to four days to get through to 811. I think it should be much faster, and they're going to need to improve the system before school starts."
Officials acknowledging issues
Last week, Dr. Heather Morrison addressed the 811 wait times in an interview with CBC, saying discussions were underway about how to shorten them — and address potential delays in the referral or scheduling process.
"And also concerns around the testing and how quickly we get the testing done," said Morrison. "So those are things we are actively discussing and working on to make sure that there is really good quick access to the testing."
Officials with CPHO and Health PEI later added, through the statement to CBC News, that the majority of 811 referrals for COVID-19 testing are followed up on immediately.
The expectation is to have an individual tested within 24 hours.
"In rare circumstances, it may take more than 24 hours to schedule a test," the statement said. "Reasons for this may include an unexpected high volume of referrals for testing from 811, delay in 811 making the referral to Health PEI's COVID-19 team, or difficulty reaching the individual when calling to schedule a test."
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