Mid Ulster people 'frustrated' over trying to book Covid test

Mid Ulster people fearing they have caught Covid-19 have been experiencing problems booking a test, the Mail has learned.

Thursday, 17th September 2020, 10:31 am
Updated Thursday, 17th September 2020, 4:30 pm
Covid testing centre.

While Antrim and Craigavon are the nearest testing centres, it is understood a few were offered appointments in Scotland.

Local DUP MLA Keith Buchanan says he has raised the matter with the Health Minister Robin Swann.

Mr Buchanan said he has received a number of calls from school principals and parents who were left annoyed at not being able to book a test.

Keith Buchanan MLA

“I contacted the Minister of Health directly following a number of calls from schools and parents expressing their frustration when trying to contact Public Health Agency (PHA) and also trying to book Covid-19 tests,” he explained.

“I asked the Minister to clarify what the problem was and asked him to ensure that Public Health Agency liaised more closely with schools.”

Mr Buchanan said he urged the Minister to ensure that steps would be taken to restrict available appointments shown online to locations in Northern Ireland in order to mitigate public frustration. “The booking system and delivery of testing needs to be as effective, sustainable and user-friendly as possible,” he said.

Mr Buchanan said it was his understanding a new system has now been put in place to allow PHA to liaise better with schools in the future.

“The Department of Health, the Public Health Agency and their partners should be commended for the way in which they have ramped up testing capacity in Northern Ireland, particularly given a rising number of clusters and outbreaks in recent days,” he continued.

Mr Buchanan added: “We have to be mindful that for many people, travelling to undergo testing outside of their local area will have a significant impact on their work and family life, posing major questions around transport and childcare.”

A PHA spokesperson said they are aware of some issues with the DHSC booking system which have resulted in people finding it hard to book tests, or being offered tests at sites outside Northern Ireland.

“We are working with DHSC to try to resolve these, but it’s important to note that pressure on testing is having an impact, which is why it is important that testing is used appropriately,” she said.

“We also know some people had an experience with the booking system recently that meant there were offered tests at locations that didn’t have testing sites.

“These were generally for locations that previously had a mobile testing unit available. This was because the DHSC portal for booking tests did not immediately update with the new locations. On these occasions we have worked with our DHSC colleagues to resolve the situation as quickly as possible.

“We continue to work with our colleagues in DHSC to ensure changes are made to the booking portal in a more timely manner to reflect the actual location of testing units, and have sought reassurances around this moving forward.”

Since the outbreak of Covid-19, there have been 30 deaths in the Mid Ulster District Council area, according to Department of Health statistics. In the seven days to Tuesday of this week, a total of 2,111 tests were carried out with 10 positive cases - four in the 40-59 age group, and six in the 20-39 age group.

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