'I find it a little archaic': Nova Scotians struggling to book COVID-19 tests through 811
HALIFAX -- When Anette Goodwin's seven-year-old son started sneezing on Sunday, she decided to keep him home from school the next day.
But after developing a sore throat on Tuesday, Goodwin called 811 -- a process she says was frustrating and time consuming.
"I redialed for two-and-a-half hours, so it was 10:30 by the time I got through. It was a busy signal, like you couldn't even get through to a recording or anything like that," she said.
Goodwin isn't the only one who has concerns about the process to get tested.
Shayna Ward's son had a runny nose, cough and fever on Sunday so they called 811. She says they were told her son would need a COVID-19 test to go back to school and that someone would get back to them.
"We waited until this morning and I called back and they tried to say that our phone wouldn't accept blocked calls, which it does, and asked if we were home, like trying to almost say that we were the problem, not them. And then finally they took all our information again and told us that we're starting right over from the beginning again," she said from her home near Bridgewater, N.S.
In Amherst, N.S., Kyle Johnson is also struggling to get his COVID-19 test done, despite having symptoms since Sunday.
Johnson says he was able to get through to 811, but after not hearing back to book his test, he decided to call back.
"I tried calling them 37 times and then I finally got through and come to find out they closed my file completely without no reason at all, no explanation, so I had to re-start the process," he said.
Johnson is hoping to get a test done Friday morning but had to cancel a planned oral surgery while he waits.
"I'm very frustrated," he said. "Like, I understand they're busy, I totally get that and I respect everybody out there that's doing all that hard work, but it is just very frustrated having to miss a week of work and having to cancel this surgery."
This week alone, 811 received 1,610 calls on Monday, 2,067 on Tuesday and 1,880 on Wednesday.
The Department of Health and Wellness says Nova Scotia's 811 system continues to receive and respond to a high volume of calls from Nova Scotians seeking support with health questions -- including screening for COVID-19.
According to the department, wait times can fluctuate based on a variety of factors, including call volumes.
Throughout the pandemic, officials say 811 has continued to add additional resources, including new staff hired last week, and make other changes to meet the increased demand for the service. Before COVID-19, 811 had 55 staff. Since then, 112 staff have been hired for COVID-19 calls, bringing the total to 167.
Some people would like to see the process to get tested streamlined.
"I find it a little archaic having to call in. It would be nice to maybe have like an online submission form, where you can just put in your information and then when the nurse is ready to call you, they could just give you a call," said Goodwin.
Meanwhile, Ward questions why a secondary testing site in Bridgewater closed its doors as school reopened.
"I know the beginning of COVID, right up until a few months ago, they had two testing sites in Bridgewater and they recently closed the secondary one," she said. "So, with school starting back up, they should have reopened that secondary testing site to allow for this influx in tests that are gonna be happening because school is back in."