Changes being made to COVID-19 testing in the province starting next week will allow more health care resources to be directed to those most at risk, Minister of Health Jason Copping said Tuesday.
As of July 18, several eligibility and operational changes to the PCR testing program will come into effect, tests to inform clinical treatment will need a referral from a medical professional, and some testing locations will change, he said in a press release.
“We are taking steps to build on the foundation we have in place for dealing with other respiratory viruses,” said Copping.
“These updates to our PCR testing program help facilitate care closer to Albertans’ medical homes, allow us to direct Alberta's testing capacity toward those who are most at risk, and allow some health-care workers who have been deployed to assessment centres for the last two years to return to their regular roles to support other health services.”
PCR (polymerase chain reaction) tests, conducted to detect the presence of the virus, will continue to be offered at some assessment centres, while elsewhere testing will take place at AHS clinics designated as swabbing sites, integrated with other services, he said.
The AHS online assessment tool will continue to be used to book appointments at AHS sites for those who meet the eligibility criteria, live or work in high-risk settings, or are referred by a medical professional, he said.
Residents who need PCR testing to inform their care will now need a referral from a clinician, including people with symptoms who may be eligible for outpatient Paxlovid or Remdesivir treatment, people with symptoms who are pregnant, and people who have been referred for testing as part of their medical assessment.
Where COVID testing is needed to inform treatment decisions, primary care and urgent care clinics can choose to perform testing on site or refer to an AHS location.
Residents who are referred to an AHS site by their clinician will enter their physician’s name into the assessment tool and their physician will submit a lab requisition on their behalf.
Albertans who are eligible for outpatient treatment who do not have a primary care provider or who are unable to book an appointment can continue to call Health Link at 1-844-343-0971.
Meanwhile, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, said with the pandemic continuing, precautions remain advisable.
“Over the summer and into the fall, Alberta can expect to see waves of COVID-19 continue, along with increased transmission of other respiratory viruses like influenza,” Hinshaw said in the same release.
“I would like to remind Albertans of the importance of monitoring for symptoms, staying home when sick and, for those eligible for treatment, quickly accessing rapid or PCR testing when sick.”