Calls for improvements to 811 as thousands of COVID-19 calls flood the lines this week
Published Wednesday, September 16, 2020 9:40PM ADT Last Updated Thursday, September 17, 2020 8:16AM ADT
WILLIAMSWOOD, N.S. -- Back-to-school seems to have sparked a lot of questions for Nova Scotia's 811.
The phones are ringing off the hook and while it isn't clear exactly who is calling, what is clear is parents are frustrated with waiting to get through -- and then waiting again for COVID-19 tests for kids sent home from school.
Laurie Joudry is self-isolating until COVID-19 tests prove her two sons who have a runny nose and cough don't have the disease.
She describes the back and forth with 811 as a waiting game.
"It was hard to have a four-year-old sitting in his room for a day-and-a-half before we even knew he was going to have an appointment," Joudry said.
On Monday, Nova Scotia's 811 received more than 1,700 calls; the next day, 1,800 calls flooded the lines.
Extra staff were brought on to respond.
Call volumes this week were higher than average days in April through August and the start of September.
Four-year-old Adrianna Burgess is also home from school right now.
Her mom called 811 Tuesday and was told it may take days to hear back.
A call came 30 hours later to get a test the next day.
CTV News has spoken with multiple parents whose kids' coughs or sneezes had them calling 811 this past week.
"I have a full-time job," said Tasha Chambers of Windsor, N.S. "How am I supposed to go about as normal when my four-year-old has to stay home from school and (I have to) go to work at the same time?"
For some, the waits are too long.
"We waited nearly a whole week to find out we could go back to school," said Amber Jeffery of Sheet Harbour, N.S.
Lab data shows in the past seven days about 405 tests were done for children aged four to 18 in the province. That's about 18 per cent of the total tests.
The Nova Scotia Health Authority says 11 per cent of last week's tests were kids under 12.
Opposition parties have been calling on the province to speed up testing.
"I think we could be looking at rapid testing, we could have a feature where school administrators could be calling in on a separate line," said Progressive Conservative health-care critic Karla MacFarlane.
She also said the province should consider having mobile units go to schools when they identify a case.
The province says it's reviewing its testing strategy and says it will evolve as the pandemic does.
The province has set up mobile testing before.
"Even if they would set up pop-up drive-thru testing sites so I could just throw her in the car and go have her tested," Chambers said.
One of Joudry's children has been tested and, now, she has to wait for the results and then do it again with her other child.