COVID-19 test ‘difficult, if not impossible’ to obtain in Port Lincoln, authorities promise changes

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Frustrated Port Lincoln residents are making hundreds of calls to the city’s COVID-19 testing clinic to try to book a test, as health officials work to remove a bottleneck.

The local test center operates by appointment only, unlike walk-in or drive-through services from other locations in South Australia.

There are 65 active cases in the peninsula town of Eyre, according to data from SA Health.

Port Lincoln resident John told the ABC he has been experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 since Tuesday.

He called the clinic 160 times to try to book a test, but couldn’t pass.

“In the end, we went but we were turned away without an appointment,” and he was advised to keep ringing, he said.

“My wife finally got through around 3pm and got a reservation for Arvo Friday.

The local health network says more people can be tested per day after the reservation system is fixed.(ABC News)

Facebook user Hannan Ahmed said he made more than 200 clinic calls when he developed symptoms of COVID but couldn’t get past.

He said he tried to get tested in nearby Tumby Bay, but was told that as a resident of Port Lincoln he was to be tested there.

In a statement posted to social media, the Lower Eyre Family Practice said it was “increasingly difficult, if not impossible,” to book a COVID-19 test in Port Lincoln.

“We have been informed that this service will increase its capacity in the coming days,” said the private clinic.

Upcoming solution for “the perfect storm”

Eyre and the CEO of the Far North Local Health Network (LHN), Verity Paterson, said the situation was a “perfect storm.”

“Obviously, a huge demand for testing, coupled with an insufficient number of phone lines and we are not able to increase the number… it’s an infrastructure problem,” she said.

“At this time, reservation is required due to the location of the clinic, but we are doing a lot of work to address this.”

Native woman on the left and woman with glasses on the right in front of the wall art
Local health network chief Verity Paterson described the situation as a “perfect storm.”(ABC Eyre Peninsula: Jodie Hamilton)

Ms Paterson said on Monday that people wishing to book a COVID test within the local health network could call a new number, 1300 334 222.

“When you get that number, you first hear a recording that tells you eligibility.

“Once that happens, you can then speak to one of our staff who will book you.

“We are also looking at whether we can also implement an online reservation system. “

She said the LHN is also considering moving the Port Lincoln Hospital test clinic to a new site with fewer traffic management issues.

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What to do if you are feeling unwell and think you have COVID but cannot be tested.

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