A former ICU nurse has slammed the conditions at a central Auckland Covid-19 testing station, saying she is appalled by the delays, understaffing and lack of PPE.
But health authorities have defended the station, saying it is managing well despite high demand and operating safely according to Ministry of Health guidelines.
The 47-year-old, who asked not to be named, arrived at the Wynyard Quarter testing station about 9.30am today for a check following the announcement of a new community infection in the central city yesterday.
And despite being first in a queue of vehicles she left after 90 minutes, still waiting to be tested.
The woman told the Herald staff said they would test a queue of pedestrians first. About 30 pedestrians were waiting to be tested.
She was instructed to get out of her car and line up on foot. She refused, saying she did not want to expose herself to other people who were potentially infectious.
She said the station appeared to have only two staff members carrying out tests, which caused delays. Though they wore full PPE (personal protective equipment), other security staff wore only cloth surgical masks, she said.
"We know that's not good enough. All of these people should be wearing proper N95 masks and face shields.
"As a nurse I find it appalling."
A security staff member dealing with people in the pedestrian queue and talking to potentially infectious patients through car windows told her the station was late setting up.
The woman said given what we knew about the virus, officials needed to be able to mobilise testing stations quickly and respond with agility when and if community outbreaks occurred.
"Why are these staff not properly equipped?
"It should be a well-oiled machine. There should be plenty of staff."
After waiting around 90 minutes, she left about 11am without being tested. There was a queue of about 70 cars behind her which had not moved an inch.
The woman had now booked in for a test with her GP and lodged a formal complaint with Auckland Regional Public Health.
A spokesperson for the Northern Region Health Coordination Centre (the Waitematā, Auckland and Counties Manukau DHBs COVID-19 response) acknowledged there had been high demand for testing at Wynyard Quarter this morning.
They thanked Aucklanders for doing the right thing and seeking a test.
"The pop-up CTC in Wynard Quarter opened on time at 9.30am this morning with two testing teams in place and are managing well despite the high demand.
"We want to remind people that pop-up CTCs are activated to supplement our other testing opening – including six permanent CTCs and general practices and urgent care clinics throughout the city. We encourage people to find the option that best suits them by visiting https://www.arphs.health.nz/public-health-topics/covid-19/where-to-get-tested.
The spokesperson also defended the PPE being worn by staff at the testing station as safe.
"It follows the Ministry of Health guidelines developed by public health and infectious diseases experts to protect both healthcare staff and the public. It is wrong to suggest otherwise.
"The Wynard Quarter pop-up community testing centre (CTC) is also an example of extraordinary speed and agility in the health system that allows to put extra testing into locations to meet demand. It was organised in a matter of hours yesterday afternoon, much faster than we were able to activate pop-up testing in the August outbreak.
"We want to thank the testing team at Wynard Quarter for their efforts and to acknowledge they are operating this testing centre with expertise and in line with best practice."