A Palmerston North mother is distraught after she was told twice that her Covid-infected infant had tested negative - because of technical issues at a laboratory - and then was hospitalised with breathing issues.
The woman, who the Herald has agreed not to name, said she is "mentally exhausted" after allegedly being given the wrong information, and then her 8-month-old daughter stopped breathing overnight.
"She started crying and she stopped breathing. Her head flopped, she turned purpley in her face, she was unresponsive so I screamed and phoned the ambulance," she said.
Although her daughter is now home and recovering, the mother said it has been a "horrible" experience because she received "mixed messages" from MidCentral District Health Board, the Ministry of Health and a GP about test results and when to get tested.
She took her baby daughter to get a PCR test last Saturday after being told she was a close contact of a case at her childcare centre.
On Sunday she received two text messages, including one from the GP where she was tested, saying that her daughter had tested negative.
But around 8pm she said she received a call from a DHB employee who asked for her daughter's details and whether she had been tested.
When the woman said her daughter had tested negative, the phone call was ended.
But the DHB employee rang again about 40 minutes later, the woman said.
"She said: 'I'm really sorry, there was a mistake you shouldn't have got a text. She's positive'.
"I went off on this woman because I'd put so many people at risk."
The mother told the Herald she had visited a cafe, her husband had visited a supermarket and the pair had met friends that weekend.
"I started crying because I was under the impression [that] she's negative," she said.
An email from a senior employee at MidCentral Public Health Service explained that there had been technical issues with the reporting system at MedLab Central and she had been sent an incorrect text about her daughter's result.
The letter assured there were no issues with the laboratory system that analysed her daughter's swab, but only with the text.
The DHB "sincerely apologised for the error" and said it was investigating how to make sure the mistake didn't happen again.
MidCentral DHB directed the Herald's queries to MedLab Central.
MedLab Central said the problem lasted around two minutes on Sunday and affected four people.
"Two scientists were entering two results at the same time and the database came to a standstill because there were two entries coming into it, and that caused duplications among these two," said chief executive Cynric Temple-Camp.
"The incorrect result that went out was due to this very odd constellation of two people doing things on different keyboards at the same time."
He said the problem was immediately recognised and fixed, but the text notifications had already been sent and the system does not allow for a follow-up text.
"It was two people using the system simultaneously that jammed it. We think it's a one-off.
"We'd been doing these for two years now for Whanganui, MidCentral and Tairawhiti, plus many tens of thousands for Auckland and it's never actually happened before."
To fix the problem Temple-Camp said scientists were told to put entries one at a time into the database.
"Generally we've done that but I guess they were busy and thought, 'Well we can speed this up by both doing it'."
Temple-Camp believed the technical issues lay with the National Covid Tracing Solution system, but would have only affected four people.
The Ministry of Health has been approached for comment and has not yet responded.
Mixed messages from health authorities and resulting confusion continued for the woman and her husband, she said.
She claimed the DHB advised her and her husband to get a PCR test on Monday. The woman tested positive and her husband received a negative result.
But the Ministry of Health allegedly called her on Monday night and said the couple actually needed to wait until Tuesday to get a test, and her husband would therefore have to test again.
"He sat for two and a half hours, and Tuesday night gets his result saying it's positive. So all three of us are positive.
"We've had phone calls from the DHB, the public health, the Ministry of Health and MSD [Ministry for Social Development].
"But those three phone calls about what goes on with Covid, everybody said something different.
"They all don't know what they're doing. They're not communicating with each other."
The woman said she and her husband and daughter had been experiencing mild symptoms such as coughing, a tight chest and runny noses.
But she thought her daughter was near death when she stopped breathing momentarily.
"I thought she was dead. I really, really thought she was dead.
"When I picked her up and her whole head flopped and my husband grabbed her. She's like a dead body. She was all jelly, there was no muscle. He ran to put something cold on her."
A Covid team checked her vital signs at hospital and said she responded well. Because the non-breathing episode was short, the baby was sent home shortly afterwards.
"She's a happy baby after that but my point is ... we get phone calls from everywhere," the mother said.
"Mentally this has been exhausting. It's just been terrible."
There were 123 new cases reported in MidCentral yesterday, and 13,606 nationwide.