A Huntsville resident with COVID-19 symptoms went to ER says she wasn’t tested for the virus

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Julie Locke, a Huntsville resident described her latest interaction with a Muskoka area hospital in a Facebook post which has now been shared over 400 times.

Locke wrote her story;

”On Saturday (March 8) I was at work and suddenly started coughing a lot. By Saturday night my lungs were really sore. Sunday (March 9) I started to experience shortness of breath and fever which progressed over the day. I went to the ER at Huntsville Hospital that evening.

I went into the triage nurse with 3 complaints:

1. The primary reason for my visit – Shortness of breath. I described this as “I feel like I’m going to drown”.

2. Sudden new cough. She specifically asked “Have you had a sudden, new or worsening cough in the last week?” To which I replied “Yes”.

3. Fever. I had a fever all day of 99.5 to 101.5.

I was moved into a room in the back corner of the ER, and had an ECG, chest x-ray, a test to see if I might have blood clots in my lungs (which was positive) and a CT scan of my lungs looking for the blood clots (which was negative). A nurse came into the room with a package of 2 scratchy swabs and stuck one of them up my nose to get a sample to test for “influenza”. This was tested in the onsite lab and came back negative.

I was told to rest and take Tylenol/Advil for the fever and chest pain and sent home.

I went home to bed, and didn’t get up for 3 days. I am still very sick, I still have a cough. I still have shortness of breath.

I was not told to stay away from people. I was not told to wear a mask. I was not tested for Coronavirus. At the time, I thought that the swab for influenza was a test for Coronavirus. (It was presented in a way that was misleading). I did leave the hospital mistakenly thinking I had been tested for Coronavirus and did not have it. I told people I had been in contact with not to worry, I was very sick but it isn’t coronavirus.

Now that I am able to read the news, I realize that the test for Coronavirus takes 24 hours. My results were back in less than an hour. I thought that the swab for influenza was a test for Coronavirus. I called my doctors office this morning, and they confirmed that I tested negative to the current strains of influenza, but I was not tested for the Coronavirus (COVID-19).

Considering how the world is shutting down over this virus, it is crazy that someone could show up at the ER with Shortness of Breath, Sudden New and Worsening Cough and a Fever on March 8th and not be tested for COVID-19.

While I can honestly say that I have never been this sick in my entire life, I am not saying I have COVID-19. I can say that I don’t have “a cold”. I don’t have “the flu” (for sure… I was tested), pneumonia, a lung disorder that would cause shortness of breath. I had a lot of tests done. So, do I have Coronavirus… Who knows??

The question is, how many other people are showing up up in ER’s with the same symptoms and are being sent home? Back to work? How many of them have Coronavirus?

I just got off the phone with the Simcoe Muskoka Health Unit – who I was referred to by my doctor’s office for screening and to find our where to have a test. I was told that I don’t meet the criteria for a test because, while I have all the symptoms of this virus, I can not confirm that I have been in contact with a CONFIRMED case of the virus. I asked, if I have it, how people who catch this from me will be tested, if I am not a confirmed case. By way of response, she repeated that “at this time, I do not meet the criteria for a test because I can not confirm that I have been in contact with a confirmed case of the virus.”

So, why am I telling you this?

So that you don’t assume that there are no cases in Muskoka. There are no CONFIRMED cases, because they aren’t testing people. Even people who present in the ER with ALL THE SYMPTOMS of the virus, exclusively. Even after they do tests to rule out all the other possible diagnoses. I don’t want you to think that you haven’t been in contact with anyone who has this virus and go visit your grandparent, or hold someone’s new baby.

I am telling you this so that you don’t assume that our health care system is taking every precaution to ensure the virus is contained, or that we are still in the clear. They are keeping the number of local patients down by not calling them patients. This doesn’t seem like a very effective strategy.”

Locke sent us an update and noted that she went back to the ER tonight (March 13) and insisted on being tested for COVID-19.

”I directly asked for a test. The doctor, dressed head to toe in protective gear told me that she doesn't believe I could have the virus as there are currently no people in Muskoka who have it. I told her she didn't look like she didn't think I had it. She told me that they aren't testing people in Muskoka unless they have traveled to a problem region (outside Canada) or if they can confirm the person has been in direct contact with a DIAGNOSED person.”

Another Muskoka resident shared a similar experience with similar symptoms and an underlying health condition but was not tested for COVID-19.

“My husband called yesterday and opted for the call back...said they’d call the following day between 4 and 6pm (24 hrs later)...they didn’t so he called back and finally got through after about 29 tries and waited for 2 hours on hold for someone to pick up until our power went out and he gave up.”

Muskoka is on the list for two COVID-19 assessment centres—one in Huntsville and one in Bracebridge.

In a recent media interview Terry Shields, chief financial officer, and acting CEO for MAHC said that “if those visiting hospital do present with symptoms, they will be directed to a separate area in the ER department where a test will be conducted. And based on how they are presenting, how acute they are, they can be admitted by the physician or they can be discharged to wait for the results from Public Health at home.”

Do you have a recent experience to share?

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