5 Mar 2022

Covid-19 testing site workers copping an 'unacceptable level of abusive behaviour'

8:08 pm on 5 March 2022

Workers at Covid-19 testing sites are copping abuse as frustrations boil over at the limited access to rapid antigen tests amid the growing Omicron outbreak, Dr Bryan Betty says.

Close up of fingers holding express antigen covid test, negative result

Photo: 123RF

The Porirua GP and medical director of the Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners said some members of the public were becoming verbally abusive to staff when denied access to tests.

The Capital and Coast District Health Board said yesterday their testing teams were experiencing an unacceptable level of abuse.

It came as the Ministry of Health reported 22,527 new community cases yesterday bringing the total of active community cases confirmed across the country to 152,358 - though experts expect it would actually be much higher.

Dr Betty said the supply of tests available for the public was tight at the moment, but about 20 million were in the country and being distributed to providers.

"This level of frustration and anxiety that some people are displaying, we just need to be a bit pragmatic about it and realise if you have symptoms just stay at home until you can access a RAT test," he said.

GPs and emergency departments across the country were at capacity and staff were already being stretched and stressed without the addition of abuse from the public, he said.

Supply issues would be resolved in the coming days, and people needed to remain calm.

Those with symptoms should assume they had Covid-19 and behave accordingly, Dr Betty said.

"You just need to wait until you can access a test and if you have symptoms just assume it is Omicron until you have access to a RAT test. And again the distribution of these tests should start to sort themselves out in the next few days."

Dr Bryan Betty of Porirua Union and Community Health.

Dr Bryan Betty said the supply of rapid antigen tests to the public was tight at the moment, but it should be resolved in the coming days (file picture). Photo: RNZ / Karen Brown

The Hutt Valley and Capital & Coast DHBs asked people to be patient and kind - both to one another and to staff - at the region's community testing centres following widespread abusive, aggressive and violent behaviour and treatment.

"Our teams are doing the best they can to administer Covid-19 tests and distribute rapid antigen tests (RATs) but, across the board, are experiencing an unacceptable level of abusive behaviour," the DHB's acting Covid-19 response manager Junior Ulu said.

"This is not only distressing for our teams and members of the public who witness this sort of behaviour, it compromises our ability to keep collection points running and to stand up additional capacity."

Sky Stadium yesterday replaced the Hataitai netball courts as the main public collection point for RATs in Wellington city and would be open seven days a week.

"People should only visit CTCs to collect tests if they have symptoms, or live with someone who has Covid-19. Our teams will prioritise distribution along these lines, and each box contains five tests that can be used by household members," Ulu said.

"We understand that this is a scary and stressful situation for many people, however our staff are doing the best they can and deserve respect and kindness while they do their work."

Dr Betty reminded those going to their GP that they could provide supervised tests to those who were symptomatic, but they were not giving away RATs.

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