Rural COVID-19 testing sites also reaching daily capacity, but lines shorter than city centres
FERGUS -- COVID-19 testing sites in rural Ontario are facing similar issues to ones in larger cities, including long lines and extended wait times.
Capacity is an issue at the rural sites, and there are fewer testing centres available.
The Old Groves Memorial Hospital in Fergus has been decommissioned, but is open again as a COVID-19 assessment site.
The location is only open three days a week -- Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays -- from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
People going into the centre for a test around noon said they'd been lined up since 9 a.m. This was much shorter than the waits at sites in Kitchener-Waterloo, where people started lining up around 3 a.m. and were turned away before the centre even opened on Wednesday morning. The drive-thru site in Kitchener is now only available by appointment.
However, lines are much shorter at rural sites.
Miguel Guayasamin and daughter Sophie drove from Kitchener after struggling to get a test closer to home.
"Anywhere else we've tried to call, there just hasn't been a response," Miguel said.
Steve Street, president and CEO of the Groves Memorial Community Hospital, said they're working to hire more staff and add more hours for testing.
"We planned to do 60 to 80 tests a day, but our volumes have doubled that," he said. "Every day, depending on the staff that we've been able to schedule, our capacity will adjust accordingly."
Street said the hospital has seen a demand of more than 100 patients each day.
"Which causes us, along with many other assessment centres, to have to close early in order to limit the amount of time people have to wait in line," Street said.
An assessment centre in Mount Forest closed and the Fergus location opened to help support that closure, officials said.
The shorter wait times are drawing people from larger cities to smaller testing sites.
"I will never direct where a patient looks to receive care, but what I will say is that we need to focus and prioritize our available resources right now," Street said.
Rural test sites are few and far between. A new Harriston location is set to open once enough staff are hired.
Testing numbers are rising, but case numbers remain low in the rural areas of Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph.
"Outside of Orangeville and outside of Guelph, we definitely see fewer cases and less transmission at this time," Medical Officer of Health Dr. Nicole Mercer said.