Hamilton and McMaster FHTs provide drive-thru COVID-19 testing for 60 people per day

April 24, 2020

Y108 News article published April 23, 2020

By Lisa Polewski

Hamiltonians can now book a COVID-19 test at the city's drive-thru site, based inside the Dave Andreychuk Mountain Arena.
It’s not quite the same as a fast-food drive-thru, but the COVID-19 testing centre at the Dave Andreychuk Mountain Arena is as efficient as it gets.

Since Hamilton’s third testing site opened its doors a week ago, they’ve been testing about 60 people per day.

“We book every five minutes, and it takes about three and a half minutes for a client to come through,” said Laurel Turnbull, manager of nursing, complex care and quality improvement at the Hamilton Family Health Team.

The arena is functioning as a COVID-19 testing centre between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., seven days a week. The Hamilton Family Health Team and the McMaster Family Health Team are operating the site, which is staffed by primary care clinicians.

Jill Berridge, co-executive director of the McMaster Family Health Team, said the response to the unique method of testing has been overwhelmingly positive, especially from those who are being tested.

“They love the fact that they can stay in the comfort of their own car, and go through this process, and how quick it is,” said Berridge.

The mountain site is also testing those who don’t have a car. Elderly residents or those who rely on mobility devices are able to get a ride through DARTS, and anyone who may get to the arena by public transit can also simply walk around the track to the different stations.

It’s not as simple as turning up and getting tested, however. Appointments at the Hester Street location still need to be booked through a family doctor or Hamilton public health.

Berridge said most people understand that process, although a handful of people are still showing up on a daily basis without an appointment.

“But they’ve been very reasonable when we’ve asked them to go ahead and call public health and get an appointment to come back.”

Although testing has ramped up across Hamilton — specifically in long-term care and retirement homes — Berridge said they are following the provincial guidelines on who qualifies for testing, which means you cannot simply request a test.

“It would be hard to test everybody. The capacity for that type of testing just isn’t available right now. I think we do a good job of prioritizing people that really need to be tested.”

During an update from the city last week, Dr. Elizabeth Richardson, Hamilton’s medical officer of health, said they’ve been getting requests from people who have had their employers ask them for a “clearance note” to go back to work.

“That is not recommended at all, and in fact, it’s taking up resources that could be used for those who are symptomatic,” said Dr. Richardson.

“We want to really get the message out that that kind of testing, it’s not helpful. For somebody who’s well, the fact that they have a negative test today means nothing about tomorrow, or even five minutes after they’re tested.”

There have been 3,238 tests administered at the city’s testing and assessment centres since the first two opened their doors on March 16.

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