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Alarm at Tauranga medical centre’s Covid testing

Some residents have complained of a Tauranga doctors surgery discouraging Covid tests. File Image/SunLive.

Some Tauranga residents are suggesting a doctor’s surgery in the city is actively discouraging people from getting tested for Covid-19.

However, The Doctors Tauranga on Devonport Road say they follow all public health guidelines and offer free testing when cases meet Ministry of Health guidelines.

Following a positive wastewater test in Tauranga on Tuesday, September, 28, Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield implored residents in the greater Tauranga area who were symptomatic or had been at any locations of interest to get tested for Covid-19.

However, one resident says he was actively put off getting a test by a medical centre in the city. He claims, despite being informed to get tested by Healthline, staff at The Doctors Tauranga told him his symptoms did not align with Covid and if he wanted a test he would need to pay for it.

He suggests a staff member at the centre was “rude” and “diminished” his symptoms making him embarrassed to have presented in the first place.

“I was told I had to pay,” he says. “I went elsewhere. With Covid approaching our region and after the wastewater test I assumed they would be happy to give tests to anyone who suspected they might have it but that was not the case.”

The issue appears to have continued. A number of negative reviews on Google have also highlighted the same problem over the past week. One user says a member of staff at the centre is “actively trying to discourage people from getting Covid tests.”

Another, details how they had to go to another location to get tested.

A staff member “discouraged me to get a Covid swab,” says the complainant.

“I told her she isn't a health care professional and maybe she shouldn't be making those calls.”

The reviewer says they eventually had their test elsewhere because the receptionist wouldn't book them in. They are now looking for a new GP.

The Doctors Tauranga say they follow public health advice and guidelines at “all times” and make alterations when information changes or when locations of interest become important to the practice and patient population, as recently seen in the Waikato outbreak.

“We encourage testing for all our patients with Covid-19 symptoms,” says The Doctors acting regional business manager Wendy Dillon.

“Following public health guidelines, we encourage testing of non-symptomatic patients when locations of interest come into play and these guidelines change. Testing is free when it meets the Ministry of Health Case Definition.”

The Doctors Tauranga say they follow all public health guidelines. Image. Google Maps.

The Doctors say they also do their best to accommodate unenrolled patients. At least one of the individuals displeased with their treatment is not enrolled at the centre but found their details on the Healthpoint website advising testing locations.

“We prioritise appointments and healthcare for our enrolled patients,” says Wendy.

“We welcome casual patients and do our very best every day to provide them the best care and advice possible.”

Another person who asked for a test at the centre, although without symptoms, says they were also told they would need to pay for a swab.

On this occasion, The Doctors Tauranga appear to have followed official advice on patients who present without symptoms and without direction from Healthline or another health official.

However, the person in question still believes staff at the practice were "off-putting" regarding a Covid test at a time of extreme caution.

Official advice on the Ministry of Health website is that testing for Covid-19 is free if a person has symptoms or has been directed to take a test by a health official. They are also free if crossing an Alert Level boundary.

Testing is not free if you’re seeking a Covid-19 test to travel to another country.

Medical Officer of Health for Toi Te Ora Public Health Dr Phil Shoemack details the criteria for people who should present for a Covid-19 test.

“Anyone who has visited a location of interest as listed on the Ministry of Health website should follow the advice on the website,” he says.

“In some instances, that will include presenting for a Covid-19 swab. Additionally, anyone with even the mildest symptoms who has recently visited a Waikato town where cases have been confirmed is urged to please get a test today, even if they haven’t been to a location of interest.”

Whilst he states that individuals without symptoms do not require a test he also makes it clear that people being turned away from testing should not be the norm.

“Individuals who are totally asymptomatic, and who have not travelled out of the local area, are not required to be tested,” he explains. "

“Anyone who presents for testing, however, should not be turned away.”

The MOH advises if you have symptoms consistent with Covid-19, such as cold or flu symptoms, you should contact Healthline or your doctor to find out if you need a test. If they agree you should be tested for Covid-19.

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5 Comments
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@Wotnow

Posted on 11-10-2021 13:26 | By morepork

Thanks for a concise summary of a bad situation. This is really what we DON’T want when people are trying to get tested. I have some sympathy for the clinic and more after your description, but they still need to be doing better... Perhaps just deal with ONE testee at a time, processed to completion, and ignore queues. The fact that people are queuing on the road shows there is more demand than a single unit can supply. The DHB should be looking at walk-in pop-up testing sites, if this is the case.

Poor service for walkin testing

Posted on 10-10-2021 14:58 | By

This place is the only place in Tauranga (according to MoH /BoPDhb) web pages that you can get a test if not enrolled with a local GP. They aren’t really geared up for it though...have to park car on street go to their main entrance & only then after they take details & temp check can you get back in car; try to join queue (tailed back into street) to be tested. They are supposed to email results but don’t. Calling them for results inevitably just gets engaged tone as they are using that line to ring back those in queue outside waiting to be tested so they can get more deails to put on testing paperwork. It’s clear from some of staff attitudes they wish they weren’t having to deal with walkins who need tests...even for legitimate reasons...eg having to cross in / out Akl boundary.

@Walbuck

Posted on 10-10-2021 11:33 | By morepork

I take your point. But there is a bigger picture. People need to know that they CAN get a free test and it is a not unpleasant experience. This sends a negative message to the community and it would be just as fair to conclude that the clinic is more interested in revenue than in solving a problem (they would have happily tested if the patient had paid...), as it is for you to conclude that the patient was wasting their time. The probability is that there will be elements of both these things in the "edge" cases. Meantime, channels for testing need to be seen to be open. The attitude by the clinic was the real problem here; they should have dealt with it better.

Sounds

Posted on 09-10-2021 19:50 | By

like the patient was just wasting the Clinics time, No symptoms, No link to a case, No reason to get tested Too much time on their hands and wanting attention - and then wanting it done for free - If they were that concerned they would have happily paid for the test

Not OK.

Posted on 09-10-2021 14:27 | By morepork

"... They are now looking for a new GP." This would be the very best course of action under the circumstances. Fortunately, there are some excellent practices in Tauranga and I was surprised to read this.