A Greater Victoria woman deemed medically vulnerable by the BC Center for Disease Control says Island Health’s COVID-19 test booking process has left her helpless.
Langford resident Shelley Robinson, 56, has adult cystic fibrosis, a disease known to cause serious damage to the lungs and other organs. Therefore, she is classified as high risk under provincial health guidelines.
The week of December 27, Robinson and her husband began experiencing symptoms consistent with COVID and decided to see if they could get tested for the virus.
Island Health, along with other regional health authorities in British Columbia, dropped PCR testing for all symptomatic residents as of Dec. 31. Now the test is only available to vulnerable residents or those who work in health care facilities.
Given her illness, Robinson qualified to receive a PCR test under updated guidelines. Her husband, who often works in in-person settings where there are strict protocols on self-reported COVID exposures, was also hoping to take a test to be allowed to work.
Robinson first called to book a test through Island Health’s hotline and automated call-back system shortly after 9:30 a.m. on Friday, December 31. 2.
Still not having received a callback as of Jan. 5 and feeling quite ill on Wednesday morning, Robinson worries about what might happen next.
Island Health confirmed that people with underlying conditions are still candidates for PCR testing, but did not comment on callback services for the vulnerable, only to say residents could experience delays.
“Our test call center is experiencing overwhelming demand and we are asking for people’s patience,” the response reads.
Robinson has great support from doctors at the Cystic Fibrosis Clinic at St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver, but even with virtual appointments to assess her symptoms, she said an official diagnosis of COVID would help develop a recovery plan.
“It’s important for me to know…because then I can report it to my doctors and I’ll know if I have antibodies,” she said. “All of these details affect my medical records.”
Robinson is no stranger to scary viruses – she contracted H1N1 in 2016 and ended up in intensive care for five days due to her condition. Now she is afraid of having to be admitted again.
“If it goes to my lungs, I’m thrilled,” she said. “All of this is quite concerning to me, although I’m holding on.”
Unless her condition worsens enough to require a hospital visit, Robinson said, she doesn’t know how to access local medical assistance for her high-risk symptoms, especially without an official COVID diagnosis.
“I’m scared. I have absolutely no medical support system,” she said. “I have a husband (to help me), but what if I was single? What if I was age ?
Too frustrated with the process to try to contact Island Health again, Robinson and her husband are self-isolating and monitoring their symptoms from home. In the meantime, she hopes sharing her story will show how high-risk residents can fall through the cracks of COVID care.
“There are so many people who are vulnerable,” she said.
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