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HSE defends Covid-19 testing times as reports of delays continue

The HSE has moved to defend its Covid-19 testing and contact tracing arrangements following anecdotal reports of increasing delays in the process.

In recent weeks individuals tested for the virus have complained of longer waiting times to receive test results while others have bemoaned delays in the commencement of contact tracing for positive cases.

In a press conference on Thursday, 19 August, HSE CEO Paul Reid said that over the past seven days more than 55,000 laboratory tests were recorded, 41,000 in the community and 14,000 in hospitals.

He said that to date the HSE had conducted 730,000 tests for Covid-19 and 7,000 tests in one day last week, the most in a 24-hour period to date.

Mr Reid admitted that contact tracing was becoming more complex and revealed that serial testing would commence in direct provision centres and meat plants shortly.

A public health specialist who spoke to the Medical Independent (MI) said that currently it takes too long for patients who present with symptoms to be tested. Low capacity in contact tracing centres has been reported in recent weeks, the specialist said.

They added that a lot of individuals  have a “complex contact”, where a positive case has been to a party or workplace for example. Such contacts take much longer for public health specialists to investigate.

A GP who spoke to the paper recalled a recent incident where contact tracing of a positive case did not occur for a close contact for over 48 hours.

Many GPs, however, have reported efficient times for testing referral appointment times nationally, with many patients who present receiving a test appointment within a few hours.

Turnaround times for test result to the result being in the system in the South East are 22 hours midweek and 40 hours for those referred out-of-hours, according to Tramore-based GP Dr Austin Byrne.

In the Midlands, Longford GP and IMO President Dr Pádraig McGarry said turnaround times were between 24-36 hours. In North Dublin, GP Dr Conor McGrane said the referral to result timeline was about three days.

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