A very testing Boxing Day queue in Gosford

A line hundreds of metres long has formed outside the Gosford testing clinic. Dec, 2021

Being a close household contact of someone with COVID-19 over Christmas has come with many challenges but I didn’t think the biggest would be getting tested.

My daughter started to feel unwell on December 19 so she had a test and on December 20 her COVID-positive status was confirmed.

Locals waiting in line to be tested in Gosford on Boxing Day.

It was scary – she was initially very unwell with an extremely high fever and a cough that was difficult to listen to.

She is improving but it is up and down and my motherly fears that long COVID might impact my beautiful, vivacious, sporty, happy daughter keeps me awake at night.

I was tested on December 21 and found out late on December 24 that we were negative – so far so good – but two more tests to go on days six and 12 before I’m out of the woods and Dr Google says 25 per cent of close exposures don’t show symptoms until between days seven and 14.

We managed Christmas day as best we could and our house continues to be divided into red and green zones as we do our best to contain the virus.

A text message from NSW Health thanked me for continuing to self-isolate and reminded me to “please get tested” on December 26.

I left home at 9am expecting it to take at least two hours to get through the COVID drive through clinic run by private pathology company Douglas Hanly Moir Barratt at Adcock Park, West Gosford, which was where we went for our first tests.

I’d checked opening hours to make sure it was operating on Boxing Day but as I approached the corner of Central Coast Highway and Racecourse Rd a sign said test clinic closed and witches’ hats blocked the righthand turning lane.

I activated plan B, drove directly to Gosford Hospital’s Holden St clinic, found a car park and walked up the hill where I was confronted by a queue that weaved up past the new building all the way to the emergency entry road and along the top road.

Toward the end of the queue a woman in full PPE told said the wait time was approximately five hours.

I mentioned I was a close household contact of a confirmed case and she shrugged her shoulders, told me most people in the line were close contacts and I should line up, keep my mask on and socially distance along with everyone else.

Some people did not have masks on and there were children and elderly people waiting – some came prepared with umbrellas, chairs, coolers and books to read – it was astonishing.

I decided not to wait – to just drive home and get up very early on December 27 to make sure I was at the front of the queue – it would add at least a day to our quarantine but that felt like a more sensible option than standing in the sun along with hundreds of potential COVID cases.

I decided to video the line from back to front as I walked back to the car. It took four and a half minutes and I stopped filming before I reached the front of the queue.

I asked how long people had been waiting and they said they had arrived before 6am – I heard mothers apologizing to their children about how long it was taking – and there was no guarantee everyone who queued would get tested.

As I drove home I noticed there were cars lined up for testing in Adcock Park even though the signs said test clinic closed – after wrangling with the gate keeper I joined the very back of the queue.

It felt safer and I wondered why all close contacts were not directed to use the drive through clinics to limit exposure to others waiting for a test.

I joined the queue bang on 10am and made it to the front of the line bang on midday.

One of the testers told me they were official closed and that they had been shut down by the police at 8:30am.

They appeared to have plenty of test kits, staff, porter loo, shade tent – everything they needed to keep testing until their allocated and advertised close time of 2pm but they were packing up for the day at 12pm.

Glen Smith, Duty Officer, at Gosford Police said information that police had closed down the testing clinic at Adcock Park at 8:30am was incorrect.

He said the police do not close down testing clinics and it would not be in their interests to do so.

“They are not run by us – they are run by Health or the private COVID clinics, he said.

“Police did assist as there was too much traffic coming on to the highway but we did not close the clinic.”

I’ve attempted to call the pathology company’s Chief Branch Operations Office, Kathy Davis, to find out why the clinic had been closed having only conducted around half as many tests than it had capacity to perform by 2pm.

I was placed on hold for 15 minutes and there was no option to leave a voicemail but I will keep trying.

I have also sent an email to the office of Health Minister, Brad Hazzard, asking for confirmation of whether it is the state or federal government responsible for operating the private pathology clinics and deciding when they open and clsoe.

My other questions were about the queue outside Gosford Hospital.

Does the Minister consider a five hour wait time for testing at a regional hospital acceptable?

Does the Minister consider it acceptable that many in the queue outside Gosford Hospital today were close household contacts of confirmed COVID 19 cases?

What measures will the Minister put in place to shorten testing queues and when?

Considering the two testing sites I have seen today have turned away an unknown number of people, it appears current testing clinics are not coping with volume.

How will NSW Health manage what appears to be a testing crisis with queues now becoming exposure sites?

The Minister had not responded as we published this article but we will publish his response as soon as it arrives.

Fortunately we got tested today but even as close household contacts we were told we can expect to wait 72 hours for the result.

Here I sit, four hours after embarking on the simple task of getting a COVID test, safe and cool in the green zone of my house but I feel for every person still sitting in that queue outside the Holden St clinic and for those who have been unable to get a test at all.

I will report the responses I receive from the Minister and the pathology company as soon as they become available – perhaps they are stuck in a queue somewhere.

Jackie Pearson

3 Comments on "A very testing Boxing Day queue in Gosford"

  1. The 5 hour wait was actually 8&1/2 hours at Gosford. I understand your concern as you’re a close contact but there were people in that queue who were symptomatic close contacts who had a positive antigen test. All nicely mixed in with those getting PCR tests to travel! It HAS TO CHANGE. The only people getting tested should be those with positive antigen tests (which I know are hard to find but not impossible).

  2. My 19 year old son – a close contact of 4 positive cases – got to Kincumber testing this morning at 0610am. At 12:50pm – nearly 7 hours queuing – he and others were turned away. He was told they had run out of tests and were meant to close at 12:30pm anyway. This is unacceptable. The line was actually closed about 3-4 hours later but he was closer to the front. Why cannot the company (Laverty Pathology) employ someone to do a count of tests vs cars in line at the start of the day. So now he has to get up at 4am to try tomorrow… and of course there are no rapid tests anyway on the Coast. This is a political failure.

  3. They need to separate the clinics . Only positive Rapid test, or those with symptoms of positive close contacts.
    They need to have a separate travel clinic , or allow travellers to do rapid tests at home to qualify .

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