Kate Hawkesby: Why the low Covid-19 testing?

Author
Newstalk ZB,
Publish Date
Thu, 2 Apr 2020, 9:47AM
Photo / AP

Kate Hawkesby: Why the low Covid-19 testing?

Author
Newstalk ZB,
Publish Date
Thu, 2 Apr 2020, 9:47AM

COMMENT

Our case numbers at the moment tell you all you need to know about how little we're testing.

The anecdotes on how hard it is to get a test have been coming in thick and fast for ages.

And the numbers don't lie either. The Ministry of Health scandalously stopped the reportage of daily test numbers due to the fact they were plummeting post lockdown from more than 2500 tests a day, down to just over 900 on Sunday.

You'll note officials went from reciting daily test figures to just reporting rolling averages?
Massaging the numbers, in a crisis, is not cool.

And all the stories - all the people having to push hard for a test but not getting one.

The Christchurch man who was three times denied a test before testing positive; the Hastings man who tried three times to get tested despite having all the symptoms; and the Auckland man, furious after being hospitalised despite being denied a test for the virus twice.

The Government, like much of the response to this, relied on GP's using their discernment for testing.

But yesterday the Prime Minister threw GPs under the bus, saying they weren't testing enough. Health Minister David Clark backed that up by saying, "clearly some clinicians have interpreted ... the criteria for testing ... differently to others".

No kidding. That's what happens when you leave things up to individuals to decide. You're opening a can of worms.

But the GPs were only following orders from the top, the criteria was too tight and the Government's now loosening it.

So will it make a difference? I called my GP yesterday to see.

The receptionist referred me to a nurse who put me on hold while she checked the new rules around being tested because as she said, "it keeps changing".

She returned to the phone only to tell me I needed to call Healthline.

I asked if they tested there at my local doctor's or not, she said yes they did but you needed a referral from Healthline, who has to agree to it.

Well, if every person has to sit on hold at Healthline waiting for a green light to be tested, I'm not sure how we're going to so fiercely ramp up testing numbers as promised.

If you're elderly or feeling really unwell, how much time should you have to spend sitting on hold on the phone auditioning for a test?

We have to get testing up to get better accuracy.

There's not a single epidemiologist in this country who believes our case numbers are currently accurate. The figures are likely way higher.

This, hopefully, will start bearing out once increased testing kicks in, once clinicians get the memo on that new criteria, and act on it.

Because people having to push and push and push to be tested, is not only uncool, it's dangerous.

• Editor's note: The Government yesterday announced testing would be increased to 5000 a day.