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Significant rise in Covid-19 referrals in Kildare and Dublin prompts delays in receiving home tests

One Kildare resident explained they were waiting six days for a test after they were referred.

Image: Shutterstock/Horth Rasur

THE HSE HAS reported a significant rise in referrals for Covid-19 home testing across parts of Kildare, Dublin and Wicklow, with some residents waiting up to five days for a test following a surge in recent weeks. 

The HSE community health organisation responsible for Dublin South, Kildare, and West Wicklow has had the highest incidence rate – the number of cases relative to the population size – in the country, according to the latest data from the Health Protection Surveillance Centre. 

That incidence rate is 63.2 cases per 100,000 of the population, much higher than the nationwide incidence rate of 35 cases per 100,000. 

A spokesperson for the region confirmed to TheJournal.ie that the significant rise in referrals for home testing, which involves the National Ambulance Service carrying out testing at a resident’s home, has become a “challenge” in recent weeks. 

“Due to the significant rise in referrals for Covid-19 home testing, the HSE is seeing an increasing demand on the home testing system, provided by the National Ambulance Service,” they said. 

On one day alone in early September, “the National Ambulance Service completed over 850 Covid-19 Swabs. The current turnaround time for a home test when the National Ambulance Service has been notified of the request, is circa 2-3 days,” the HSE said.

“The HSE is undertaking a number of actions to address this challenge in order to provide a sustainable long term plan.”

It said “a request for a home test is based on clinical need only and not just if they cannot travel to a static community test centre”.  

However, one resident of Athy in Co Kildare described how it took almost a week to get a test result after he and his wife began displaying symptoms. 

Following a referral for a test from their GP and with neither of them having transport to a test centre, the couple requested a home test. 

Their referral also came as their two children were due to return to school but couldn’t out of fear they may also be carrying the virus. 

The couple, who asked not to be named, explained that it took several phonecalls to the HSE before they eventually were tested five days later. 

“The thing is we don’t drive so we said we’ve no car and the only person that could bring us to a test centre was my sister who was also showing signs of Covid,” they said.  

“The HSE said ‘I’ll put you in touch with the National Ambulance Service, I can’t say when but it that it would be in the next day or two’ and that was the Tuesday.

“We had to put in for a test a second time and the person said ‘Oh, I can’t see any other test here’ so we ended up getting tested on the Sunday.

“And my mother, she went nine days waiting for a test after first developing symptoms two weeks before us. She kept ringing and they couldn’t explain to her what had happened to her test.”

Both of the Kildare residents tested negative but the fear of a positive results while waiting five days for a test took a toll on their mental wellbeing. 

“It’s not so much the symptoms or the illness, it’s how people without their own means of travel are treated. It’s completely irrational. I think the HSE doesn’t recognise there’s a problem.

Latest national data from the HSE as of 8 September indicated that over two-thirds of referrals were scheduled for a test within 24 hours with less than 10% of people waiting over 48 hours. 

The turnaround time from a swab to lab result is now around 30.5 hours, according to that data. 

“All referrals for Covid-19 testing are made via a General Practitioner or by Public Health,” a HSE spokesperson said.

“HSE Public Health has issued guidelines to all General Practitioners as to the process of when and how  to refer a patient for Covid-19 testing. The GP can request a Covid-19 test for their patient at a community testing site or a home test depending on the person’s ability to travel. Assistance with travel to testing sites can also be arranged.”

On Friday, the HSE also confirmed that two additional pop-up Covid-19 testing centres were to open in north inner city Dublin and west Dublin to address rising demand. 

The pop up centres will increase capacity by between 180 to 200 tests per day and run in conjunction with the community testing centre based at the National Show Centre in Swords.

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Delay in testing and tracing 

Concerns were also raised about the delays some people are experiencing getting a test. This week, around 73,000 tests were undertaken, with NPHET’s Professor Colm Henry confirming tonight that it is taking about 2.1 days on average to get a test appointment.

Fine Gael’s Emer Higgins raised the case of one of her constituents in Lucan, who has been confirmed as a close contact of a colleague who received a positive Covid test result on Sunday.

They were contacted on Monday by the contact tracing team who confirmed they were being referred for a Covid test and should receive an appointment within 24 hours, she said.

Her constituent didn’t receive his appointment on Monday, and when he called the HSE Live helpline the next day was advised he should have received the appointment by now.

He was told he would get an appointment by 8pm that evening, but no one was in touch. When he phoned the HSE helpline again the next morning, he was advised there was no referral on the system, and he would have to be added again, starting the process all over again.

“It’s now three days since he was first notified that he was a close contact and was being referred for a test. He still has not received his appointment,” Higgins told the Dáil.

His colleague who was tested in Tullamore has already received his result, she said, stating that worker got his result before her constituent even received an appointment.

“By the time my two constituents will receive their test results, a week will have lapsed since they were identified as close contacts.

“If they are indeed diagnosed as positive cases, so much time will have been lost in tracing their contacts from last weekend.

“And since last weekend the figures in Dublin are giving us great cause for concern.”

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