Sat | Dec 4, 2021

COVID backlogs testing patience

Published:Monday | April 27, 2020 | 12:14 AMDanae Hyman/Staff Reporter

As the Ministry of Health and Wellness moves to ramp up its turnaround of COVID-19 test results, Gleaner investigations of three cases indicate that bureaucratic backlogs and a communication blackout may be compromising the country’s grasp of the scale of the crisis.

Yesterday, the ministry reported that another 45 cases – the highest one-day jump – had been confirmed in the past 24 hours, pushing the national coronavirus numbers to 350.

The new cases comprise 19 males and 26 females aged one year old to 75.

One hundred and seventy-eight of the 350 confirmed cases are employees of the Alorica call centre in Portmore, St Catherine.

Patients and staffers at two regional hospitals in Jamaica have argued that the results of tests are sometimes pending for weeks. The ministry said that results can be garnered in 24 hours.

One patient at the Mandeville Hospital who spoke to The Gleaner on condition of anonymity said that since being in quarantine for almost three weeks, she has yet to receive her second confirmatory result to affirm her COVID-19 status.

“I got one result when they made me come here, and it was negative, and I have to wait on the second result to go home. It is frustrating because they tell you that you are supposed to get your result in like two to four days, and it’s almost three weeks,” the patient said.

“It is difficult, and it is emotionally draining. Every morning, you are looking for a result, and then the doctor will come and tell you that there is nothing, but then you watch the TV, and you see the Government actually announcing that they are doing persons’ tests and getting it back in less than two days,” the patient said despondently.

The woman, who arrived in Jamaica from New York just as the Government closed its ports to incoming passengers on March 24, said that despite her pleas to hospital administrators to be allowed to self-quarantine at home, her requests have been denied.

According to her, when she arrived in the island, as stipulated by the Government, she self-quarantined at home. However, she developed a cough and contacted the health authorities, with whom she later made arrangements to undergo a test for COVID-19.

She claims that although the test returned negative, she was transported to the Mandeville Hospital to quarantine and was told that she would be discharged upon receipt of a second confirmatory negative test.


Another patient admitted at the Mandeville Hospital for quarantine said that she has also been waiting for her test results for two weeks – to no avail.

She reported that because she came in contact with an employee of Alorica who tested positive for COVID-19, she was called in to the May Pen Hospital on April 11 for testing.

“When I went in, they said they are going to keep me and not send me back home. Couple days after, they said something happened to the sample, so they have to redo it. Since they redid it, I have not gotten back any result, but I just heard today (Friday) that they would be sending me home,” she said.

Although she is being allowed to leave, the woman shared that she is still dissatisfied as she does not know if she had contracted the virus.

A front-line employee at May Pen Hospital in Clarendon who asked not to be named shared that similar delays in receiving results of COVID-19 tests have plagued that hospital, leaving staff members uncertain of their safety.

According to the employee, a four-year-old child has been admitted to the hospital since April 15, and to date, neither the child nor his mother, an employee at the Alorica call centre, has received their test results. A negative result was received last Friday – a week later.

When The Gleaner contacted Dr Everton McIntosh, senior medical doctor at Mandeville Hospital, and St Andrade Sinclair, CEO of May Pen Hospital, they both retorted that the delay in test results were no fault of the hospitals.

“It is not something that is in our control,” McIntosh said.