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'Our doctors are burnt out': Lone COVID-19 testing clinic in Tri-Cities to close

Last Updated Sep 25, 2020 at 9:00 am PST

FILE -- Specimens to be tested for COVID-19 are seen at LifeLabs after being logged upon receipt at the company's lab, in Surrey, B.C., on Thursday, March 26, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

The only COVID-19 testing clinic the the Tri-Cities is closing next month

Doctors who run the Port Coquitlam clinic tell the Tri-City News they're being spread too thin and demand is rising

Doctors are urging locals to reach out to their MLAs, health officials, mayors to draw attention to lack of options

PORT COQUITLAM (NEWS 1130) – People in the Tri-Cities who come down with symptoms of COVID-19 will have to drive a little farther to find out if they have the coronavirus.

The only testing clinic in the region is closing next week, as was first reported by the Tri-City News.

Two doctors who run the Tri-Cities COVID-19 and Influenza Like Illness Assessment Clinic in Port Coquitlam say they’ve been forced to shut the private clinic down because they’re being spread too thin, as demand for testing rises.

“With our limited staff and resources, we are no longer able to continue running our testing site because our doctors are burnt out and our staff are overworked,” lead medical director Jordon Sugie and Dr. Carllin Man write in an open letter to people who live in the Tri-Cities.

“We simply cannot continue to work for our own health.”

The physicians say they opened the clinic in June as a temporary stop-gap. At the time, they were under the impression that the Fraser Health Authority would be opening a high-capacity public COVID-19 testing facility.

“As a group of independent family physicians that all work in our own family practices, we have had the honour and privilege to serve you and the community since June 15th, 2020. We took time away from our usual routines, and started the Tri-Cities COVID-19 Clinic due to the lack of publicly available COVID-19 testing in our area,” they write in the letter.

But four months later, a public testing facility still hasn’t opened in the Tri-Cities.

The doctors are now urging people in the Tri-Cities to reach out to MLAs, health officials, and mayors across the region to put a spotlight on the lack of a public COVID-19 testing facility.

“The lack of a testing site in the New Westminster and Tri-Cities area leaves a significant population without a convenient and accessible COVID-19 testing site,” they write in the letter.

When asked about the clinic closure on Facebook, Coquitlam Mayor Richard Stewart said it was up to the health authority to bring a testing facility to the Tri-Cities.

“We’ve expressed our concern to Fraser Health Authority. But as you likely know, Public Health is the jurisdiction of the Province and the various provincial Health Authorities (like Fraser HA). So while we’ve had discussions with FHA about such things as possibly using Coquitlam civic facilities as testing clinics, etc., it is entirely up to FHA,” he wrote.

“I’m hoping they open one quickly in the Tri-Cities (I won’t be parochial about it, though Coquitlam has some good possibilities), but it isn’t up to us, it’s up to them.”

In an email to the Tri-City News, a spokesperson with Fraser Health could not provide any information on plans to set up a testing centre for the Tri-Cities.

The Influenza Like Illness Assessment Clinic is expected to close on Friday, Oct. 2. After that, the closest testing facilities for people in the Tri-Cities will be in Maple Ridge at the Ridge Meadows Primary and Urgent Care Centre and in Burnaby at the Central Park Drive-Thru Site.

The clinic says on its website that it’s “fully booked until Monday.”

NEWS 1130 has reached out to the Fraser Health Authority and the province for comment.