8 Apr 2020

Woman claims she was denied Covid-19 check despite amendments to testing criteria

5:39 pm on 8 April 2020

Director General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield told media today he would be very surprised if people with symptoms of Covid-19 were being denied tests, given the recent amendments to the testing criteria.

A technician prepares patient samples for the clarification of the coronavirus.

A technician prepares patient samples of coronavirus tests. Photo: AFP

But that's exactly what one woman, who RNZ has agreed not to name, said happened to her when she called Healthline two days ago with a sore throat and a cough.

Under the new testing criteria, anyone with symptoms can be tested regardless of their travel history or exposure with a confirmed case.

But the woman said she was still told she did not meet the criteria.

  • If you have symptoms of the coronavirus, call the NZ Covid-19 Healthline on 0800 358 5453 (+64 9 358 5453 for international SIMs) or call your GP - don't show up at a medical centre

"I rung them to say that I had had a sore throat for a couple of days and a bit of a cough and, given the new easier, wider case definition, do I need to go get tested?

"She came back and said, 'because you haven't travelled recently and because you haven't had any contact with a confirmed case you do not fit the criteria to be tested, so we just suggest that if your symptoms get worse go and see your GP'.

"I said to her, 'Well I thought the case definition had been widened and you no longer need to have the close contact or the overseas travel', and she sort of just sniggered and said, 'ha, not really, but this is what we're telling you because so many people have gone to the testing station and have been turned away'."

The woman has not gone to see a GP since the call.

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"I did nothing. I am not going to pay fifty dollars to talk to my GP about a sore throat. At the moment, both me and my husband are off work ... and we don't have fifty dollars laying around for a sore throat that I would never actually go to a GP for."

She said it was hugely concerning not everyone with symptoms were being sent directly to testing stations.

"We sit here and watch the prime minister on TV everyday saying, 'test, test, test, we are now testing everyone who has got symptoms, you no longer need this criteria because we want to pick up all the cases'.

"We sit here very comfortable in our homes knowing that they're picking up all of the cases, they're testing everyone who is unwell, and when it actually comes to the time that you yourself is unwell and you ring for advice, they say, 'actually, no, nothing has changed, you don't fit the criteria to be tested, you stay home until you're well'.

"I'm just staying home, I'm not going to the supermarket or anything like that, my throat and cough has slightly improved since yesterday but if it was worse I would call my GP and see where to go from there, but at this stage I'm not going to do anything, I'm just going to stay home until I'm well."

In a statement, the Ministry of Health (MOH) said while the case definition no longer required a travel history or contact with a probable or confirmed case, assessment by a GP may be recommended where another diagnosis that may require treatment is likely.

"The Healthline team use Ministry of Health guidelines to identify priority groups for testing. All others they refer to their GP to determine.

"We don't have enough details to comment on this individual case. However, if the Healthline team didn't consider that she met the MOH case definition, they would have advised her to contact her GP, who would have all her information and medical history and would understand her needs best, and be able to use their clinical judgement."

The MOH is investigating the case.

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