Government must ensure regional COVID testing is up to task

Staff shortages at COVID testing clinics in Geraldton and Yalgoo this week – two years into the pandemic and well into the current Omicron wave – indicate the State Government aren’t taking testing seriously in regional WA.
Shadow Minister for Regional Health, Martin Aldridge MLC, said he was stunned to hear of challenges and confusion from regional residents seeking PCR testing this week.
“For a symptomatic Geraldton resident to be given inaccurate information on clinic opening hours, asked to sit outside in 42-degree heat, and eventually told no nurse was available to conduct testing, is not the sign of a regional health system ready for COVID-19,” he said.
“If patients presented for testing in Perth the clinic would be open, they would have their concerns taken seriously, and they would be treated quickly and safely. Regional residents deserve the same.”
Mr Aldridge said he was also perplexed by the Minister for Health’s suggestion that symptomatic patients should attend the emergency department at Geraldton Health Campus.
“When a similar situation occurred at Fiona Stanley Hospital last month it was considered a major protocol breach, yet this is routine practice in under-resourced regional hospitals.”
Mr Aldridge said he was also concerned about regional residents being required to drive long distances to access COVID-19 testing.
“In the case of a Yalgoo family requiring testing, the nearest public testing location is more than 100 kilometres away in Mullewa, making for a multiple-hour round-trip to access essential testing.”
In Parliament this week, Mr Aldridge called for the Government to undertake an urgent review of regional testing locations to ensure they are accessible and staffed, and to ensure accurate information on regional testing locations was online.
“It’s imperative the Government make access to information on testing locations more easily available, especially as COVID-19 spreads across regional WA and the number of communities requiring testing increases,” Mr Aldridge said.
“Where the government cannot or is not providing PCR testing locally, they must ensure Rapid Antigen Tests are freely available to regional residents.”
Mr Aldridge said comments from the Minister for Health that PCR testing was available at all WA Country Health Service locations was not correct.
“If staff are not available then testing is not available. The Minister needs to urgently address the critical staff shortage in regional health and ensure our testing clinics are open when needed.”