Extra staff to clear SA COVID-19 testing

Tim DorninAAP
SA Pathology clinical head Tom Dodd says extra staff will help to cut wait times on test results.
Camera IconSA Pathology clinical head Tom Dodd says extra staff will help to cut wait times on test results.

SA Pathology has deployed about 50 staff to phone through COVID-19 test results to clear a backlog in South Australia as thousands flock to get checked for the virus.

The service is now processing more than 6000 tests each day, up from about 2500 less than a month ago, with the surge prompted by the explosion of infections in Victoria.

But a computer glitch in recent days has left some people waiting longer than the expected 48 to 72 hours for results which are sent by SMS.

SA Pathology clinical head Tom Dodd said efforts were being made to correct the computer problems in the next few days.

He said in the meantime extra staff had been deployed to phone people directly.

"Obviously I would like everything to go perfectly well," Dr Dodd said.

"And for the vast majority of people, the system has worked perfectly well.

"But clearly we're in unprecedented circumstances, a once-in-a-century pandemic."

People who have been tested are asked to stay home until their results are available with delays raising fears some might return to work or other activities before being cleared.

While turnaround times for the laboratory processing of samples has been cut to about 16 hours, extra time is needed to transport swabs to SA Pathology and then to contact people.

Dr Dodd said he could understand the "anxiety and frustration" some might feel as they waited, while Health Minister Stephen Wade urged everyone to be patient.

Mr Wade said SA Pathology had demonstrated it was world-class during the pandemic and he had "not one" criticism of its handling of testing and other issues.

He said it had to be remembered that the organisation only obtained the technology to test for COVID-19 in February this year.

"We ask people to be patient. This is a pandemic. Please stay home until you've got your test results," the minister said.

Since the start of the global health crisis, SA Health has confirmed 459 cases of COVID-19 but only eight of those are still considered active.

No new cases were reported on Tuesday as the number of tests conducted for the virus in SA closed in on 300,000.

In response to the demand for testing, SA Health confirmed that all its dedicated metropolitan COVID-19 clinics no longer required a GP referral or a booking to attend.

It said because of the ongoing outbreaks in Victoria and NSW and the risk they posed to SA, the assessment and approval of activities and venues that required a COVID Management Plan had been temporarily paused.

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