Hundreds in Australia mistakenly told coronavirus test result was negative when they were positive


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PCR itself takes about 3-4 hours to run through the machine. Our machines take about 5,000 samples per run. Sounds like testing should be super quick and easy peasy, right?

Well, we first have to get your sample. A driver has to drive, sometimes out of state, to go and get your and thousands of other samples from hospitals and urgent cares and then bring them to the lab. Once in the lab, every single tube has to be labeled and checked for the correct patient information, that information either scanned in or manually entered. Here in the US we have to input the answers to a bunch of questions for the CDC as well. This is not counting the fact this department is also doing this for every blood sample from hospitals etc for regular testing, which has to get out for testing first because many blood samples have a much shorter period of time they are stable for testing than the viral transport tubes your Covid swab is in. The department is also ludicrously understaffed.

Now maybe your sample is labeled and ready to go through the lab but wait! Should the lab process your sample first so you can hug mom at Christmas, or the samples from the few hundred patients called in as STAT by their doctor because they're having surgery tomorrow? Well, sorry but the folks going under the knife are getting priority. If they're lucky, we might have time to finish all the priority stats within 24 hours of sample pickup, then we can start on people who want to hug their families for the holiday (everyone else). If they're not lucky, we could get delayed a second day into doing STATs and then get stuck having to run the next days stats before the previous days' non priorities.

This is all if everything goes well. We have machine breakdowns. We had a machine catch fire. We've run out of reagents and not been able to run the machine. We've had mislabeled samples from the urgent cares. We've had urgent cares just forget to call us to get their samples picked up. We've had employees out sick with Covid on an already short staff. We've had people calling us from the airport screaming about their flights all night, which keeps us tied up with checking for results that aren't there instead of getting things on their way to being resulted. And we want people to have their results. We're all doing overtime every week. No one was allowed to use PTO last year AT ALL.

So, I get it. It sucks. But tests can EASILY take 3 days to get from that swab jammed in your nose to the online patient portal if you're doing PCR. The antibody test isn't really going to tell you anything if you've been vaccinated (because you will have the antibodies from that), and I don't know how effective each rapid test is, if you can even get one. Many surgical centers here don't accept them for pre op testing. I know the airports don't. It's a hot mess right now, man.

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