Are you struggling to order a PCR test? Not if you have $ 350

Ontarians with positive rapid tests are struggling to get time for confirmatory PCR tests, and those who have managed to get tested are waiting days for results.

But if you have $ 350 on hand, you can get your test results in an hour at private clinics popping up across GTA.

As COVID-19 cases increase, clinics like FH Health, which has a location in the Eaton Center among more than a dozen others, receive criticism online for offering PCR tests for $ 159 with same-day results, or $ 350 for an hour. long turn.

Health professionals are concerned, not with individual companies, but with a government that they say has enabled a two-tier system by underfunding the public health system.

FH Health is not the only clinic that offers PCR and other tests for a fee. Other clinics in Ontario have similar prices advertised online, such as Rapid Clinic, Santé Medic, Switch Health and more. Many offer multiple locations; FH Health boasts 20, and its Eaton Center location opened in November amid a rise in travel.

Palliative care doctor Naheed Dosani said that while the cost of private PCR (polymerase chain reaction) testing is a problem, the broader problem is the inequality in that some people are able to pay for faster access to potentially life-saving health care.

“Meanwhile, my patients are testing positive on rapid tests and may not appear to have access to a PCR test for several days,” Dosani said.

“That should really make any ontarian so angry.”

In an email, FH Health President Melody Adhami stressed that the company only provides tests to asymptomatic people who do not qualify for public health tests, such as travelers or people seeking safety.

“Travelers and tourists should not drain our public health system or taxpayers’ money,” Adhami said said, “especially at a time when there is such a high demand for testing.”

She said that if a symptomatic person shows up, the clinic will refund them and refer them to the nearest public test center.

At a press conference on Thursday afternoon, Dr. Kieran Moore, Ontario’s Chief Health Officer, measures to streamline testing following news of delays and difficulties with the current system.

The Ontario government now only recommends PCR testing to symptomatic individuals in certain occupations, such as hospital patients and healthcare professionals; inpatients; people from or working in the communities of First Nation, Inuit and Métis; high-risk contacts; and several other specific groups.

Symptomatic people who do not fall into these categories are instead asked to take rapid antigen tests.

“This updated justification will ensure that those most at risk for serious outcomes and those who care for them have timely access to test results,” Moore said.

Andrew Boozary, a chief physician and chief executive officer of social medicine at the University Health Network, said it was “disappointing” to see this happen two years into the pandemic.

“We’ve just seen it every step, people are being priced in a pandemic,” he said. “It does a lot of damage to our healthcare system.”

Boozary said the fact that private companies can offer tests for hundreds of dollars is a symptom of a broader problem that existed before the pandemic.

“This whole mirage of universality that we have is undone,” he said. “It’s becoming clearer and clearer how universal our healthcare system is.”

But at this point, with thousands of COVID-19 cases a day, it is particularly unscrupulous, he said, alienating the people who need tests most.

“(There) has been chronic underinvestment in our public health infrastructure. And now private companies are seizing this and it’s feeling exploitative. It’s causing real gaps,” Boozary said.

In an email, a spokesman for the Ontario Department of Health said the government “does not oversee which companies decide to offer private testing, nor over the prices they charge.”

These companies must still follow the ministry’s guidelines for private testing, the spokesman said.

“Individuals with symptoms consistent with COVID-19 are thought to be positive and should follow isolation and / or self-monitoring guidelines.”

ICU nurse Birgit Umaigba said that while she had previously seen PCR tests sold specifically for travel, she was shocked to see as high a price on test that anyone could apparently take.

After nearly two years of the pandemic, Umaigba said one thing seems clear: “We are not all in this.”

“That’s why people are losing faith in public health,” she said, adding that any inequality and lack of access to PCR tests and vaccines will continue to cause unnecessary burdens on health professionals and the health system.

“This is going to stop, and this is going to stop right now.”

Doctors have told Star that the public testing system can not keep up with current demand and that the number of active COVID-19 cases can be much higher. An expert estimated that more than a million Ontarians could currently be infected.

Although some argue that private clinics are helping to carry the current burden on the public health system, Dosani disagrees. He said research shows that a two-tier health care system can actually destroy the public system.

“This is an example of … the privatization of healthcare right under our noses,” he said.

Dosani agreed that unequal access to health care has been a trend throughout the pandemic, saying the government should do everything in its power to make access to free testing faster and fairer.

On its website, FH Health announces its PCR tests for international travel, workplace safety and security.

“Everyone deserves peace of mind,” Dosani said.

With files from Alyshah Hasham


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