Northern B.C. waiting up to 2 weeks for COVID-19 test results

If you get swabbed for COVID-19 in northern B.C., you might have to wait two weeks to find out if you're infected or not.

Two health-care workers recently tested both told CBC News they were advised results could take up to 14 days.

Waits up to 14 days 

B.C.'s provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry confirms that test results are taking longer to reach people in northern B.C. than elsewhere in the province. 

"The challenge has been, of course, in the north, the distances that we have to travel to get the test into a laboratory that's able to do this type of testing," Henry told  Daybreak North host Carolina de Ryk Wednesday.

The region's largest health facilities in Prince George are 782 kilometres by road from Vancouver.

Tests sent to distant labs

Northern Health recently opened COVID-19 testing locations in communities across its 600,000 square kilometre service area. 

Office of the Auditor General of B.C.

Henry says efforts are underway to shorten wait-times as soon as possible.

"We've been working on that.... we'll shorten that time ... to get the test to an appropriate lab as quickly as possible," she said.

She says the best solution would be testing with onsite results, but that's not yet available.

"The type of tests ... we have now need to be done in a laboratory with specialized equipment. So that is absolutely a challenge both in the north and in the Interior," said Henry. 

Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press

BC vows to speed up return of results

As with other parts of the province, only people who've been referred by a health professional are eligible for testing.

And Northern Health, like other B.C. health authorities, gives priority to medical staff or long-term care patients with symptoms, people sick enough to need medical treatment, and people suspected to be part of an outbreak cluster. 

Northern Health officials acknowledge that wait-times for test results can be lengthy but says people at risk enough to need testing should already be in isolation for 14 days.

Between March 13 and 21, 408 people were swabbed for COVID-19 in the Northern Health Region, just a small fraction of the tests done provincewide.