Saskatchewan long-term care residents receive false positives from COVID-19 lab tests

·2 min read

REGINA — The Saskatchewan Health Authority and Ministry of Health say up to 255 COVID-19 tests were deemed invalid after a testing error was identified at a provincial laboratory.

They say the problem occurred at the Roy Romanow Provincial Laboratory between Wednesday and Sunday, probably because of a faulty instrument.

After being retested, 206 samples did not match the initial positive result.

"We have taken immediate action to mitigate the cause of the error. We are now confident in our testing processes going forward," Scott Livingstone, the health authority's CEO, said Tuesday.

"I would like to apologize on behalf of the (authority) to the residents, families and staff impacted by the error. In this province, throughout the COVID pandemic, we have delivered more than one million COVID tests and errors are extremely rare."

The government says families of long-term care residents who have been identified as false positives are being notified. New tests are being arranged for all affected individuals.

At least 54 residents in Regina were given a false diagnosis. As a result, outbreaks or suspected outbreaks at Regina Lutheran Home, Santa Maria, Extendicare Parkside, Extendicare Sunset, Regina Pioneer Village transitional care unit and Wascana Rehabilitation Centre Unit 2-6 have been declared over.

Extendicare Elmview, the Regina Pioneer Village complex care unit and the Wascana Rehab Centre mental-health unit remain on outbreak status. Only residents receiving end-of-life care may have visitors.

The equipment malfunction was identified during a quality assurance check on the weekend, but the core problem still needs to be identified.

"Nobody wants to cause people duress. We have to carry out a root-cause analysis. We still have not worked out exactly, entirely, what caused this," said Dr. Fergall Magee, director of the provincial lab. "Is it an issue of swab? Is it an issue of reagent? Is it an issue of instrument? Is it an issue of process?"

Magee said determining what went wrong will help avoid similar errors.

There were 139 new cases of COVID-19 reported in Saskatchewan on Tuesday. That brought the active case count to 1,625. Some 100 people were in hospital or intensive care.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 24, 2021.

— By Alanna Smith in Calgary

The Canadian Press

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting