Hours extended at Ottawa's COVID-19 testing centre as lineups grow

As residents wait in long lines for hours at Ottawa's COVID-19 testing facilities, the hours of operation at Ottawa's main novel coronavirus testing facility are being extended to over 11 hours a day.

The Ottawa Hospital says starting Wednesday, the COVID-19 Assessment Centre at Brewer Arena will be open to the public from 8:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily. Staff will be at the centre from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. 

"We are working on ways to further expand hours as needed," said a statement from the Ottawa Hospital to CTV News Ottawa. 

We have since confirmed the service plan and will now be open to the public from 8:30am to 8pm, daily. We apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused. We continue to work with the Mayor, OPH and healthcare partners to increase testing capacity for the community.

— The Ottawa Hospital (@OttawaHospital) September 16, 2020

Mayor Jim Watson announced the expanded hours on Wednesday afteroon. 

The facility has been open from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. daily since mid-March.

A new online booking system will also be introduced for COVID-19 testing, with the mayor saying it should be up and running in the next few days.

On Wednesday afternoon, both the COVID-19 Care Clinics on Heron Road and Moodie Drive announced they reached capacity before closing for the day, and no new patients would be accepted.

IMPORTANT COVID-19 SCREENING NOTICE:

The West COVID-19 Care Clinic on Moodie has reached maximum capacity and is not taking additional visitors for the day.

We are sorry for any inconvenience this may cause. pic.twitter.com/J3xTTJgF8n

— Queensway Carleton Hospital and Foundation (@QCHOttawa) September 16, 2020

"I'm sure you'll agree with me that the recent increase in COVID-19 cases in our city is a serious concern," said Watson during a media briefing on Wednesday afternoon.

"Seeing the long lines at the local testing centres has been frustrating for many of us, myself included. We understand this can be very discouraging, particularly if you're bringing children when you get tested."

Watson says he spoke with the presidents of the Ottawa Hospital, CHEO and the Montfort Hospital about the COVID-19 testing centres and the long waits for testing.

The mayor says the City of Ottawa is committed to working with hospitals and Ottawa Public Health to increase capacity.

Watson says the City of Ottawa is working with the Montfort Hospital to locate a space for a new COVID-19 testing centre in the east-end.

Earlier this week, the Ottawa Hospital and CHEO announced the hours of operation would be extended at both the COVID-19 Assessment Centre at Brewer Arena and the drive-thru testing facility on Coventry Road. 

At the COVID-19 Assessment Centre at Brewer Arena on Wednesday, a long line snaked through the adjoining field before the centre opened at 9:30 a.m.

"The lineup was already down the full length of the soccer field and doubling back on itself, so that wasn't a good start to the morning," said Brian Harvey while standing in line.

"It was 2C outside; luckily we knew that and dressed the kids in snowsuits."

Harvey also raised concerns about the process for registering for COVID-19 testing.

"They had different lines for kids and adults so the kids went to a CHEO line you register there and then you have to go sit down again get in a separate line, register at the adults."

Other people in line Wednesday morning expressed frustration the process.

“Registration they had eight stations, eight booths for regular people but they only had four for families as far as I could see,” said David Girard who waited hours in line. “I don’t want preferential treatment, I just want equal treatment at least so that we don’t need to wait there for longer than someone who doesn’t have to take care of a young one."

Resident David Macdonald said that COVID-19 testing needs to be expanded because this will be an ongoing issue.

"I don’t think a lot of parents with toddlers realize that if you have a kid in daycare you’re going to be in this line at some point over the next couple weeks because kids and colds that just goes together, any case of the sniffles you’re going to be in line for 5 hours. There’s just clearly not nearly enough testing capacity to deal with the fact that anyone with sniffles is getting tested for COVID-19."

Mayor Watson also said the City of Ottawa, Ottawa Public Health and hospitals are working to find a facility for COVID-19 testing in the downtown area.

Both the Ottawa Hospital and CHEO have job postings for nurses to work at the COVID-19 testing centres.

In a statement on Twitter Tuesday, CHEO said it's hiring more staff and redirecting current hospital staff to help at the COVID-19 Assessment Centres.

"This means some CHEO services may have to slow down again."