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Big changes in COVID testing for Hamilton

After yesterday’s Provincial about-turn on who should get COVID testing, Hamilton Hospitals are making major alterations to booking test. What follows is a joint communique from Hamilton Health Sciences and St.Joseph’s Healthcare:

Effective today, Hamilton’s COVID-19 Assessment Centres are following  guidance from the Ontario Government to prioritize testing for those most at risk of contracting COVID-19.

Hamilton residents should only seek testing at assessment centres if they:

•             are showing COVID-19 symptoms;

•             have been exposed to a confirmed case of the virus, as informed by their public health unit or exposure notification through the COVID Alert app;

•             are a resident or working in a setting that has a COVID-19 outbreak, as identified and informed by their local public health unit; and

•             are eligible for testing as part of a targeted testing initiative directed by the Ministry of Health or the Ministry of Long-Term Care.

Those who do not have symptoms, and do not fit into other priority testing criteria, are considered low risk and should not seek testing at Hamilton testing and assessment centres.

“The resources for testing don’t match the demand at this point. We are calling on our community to recognize that those at highest risk need to be prioritized for testing, to keep them safe, and to limit the spread of COVID-19 in our community,” said Dr. Tammy Packer, medical lead for the assessment centres in Hamilton. “We are doing everything we can to test as many people as possible, and are asking people to be patient, and only seek testing if they meet the criteria at this point.”

Appointments at testing centres are likely to be limited for a few days as the demand remains high and the system transitions to online booking. New online appointments will be posted as they become available.

Hamilton’s assessment centres have seen a dramatic surge in numbers of people seeking tests, and are now testing more than 1,000 people daily, about double the number from last month. Calls to the Public Health phone line on Monday reached 3,000, about triple the average daily number of a few weeks ago.

A number of changes have been made to try to address the increase in demand, including an additional testing centre at St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamiton’s West 5th campus, and additional hours at the East End Assessment Centre. Yesterday, the city moved to an online booking system, and by end of day had booked more than 1,800 appointments online.

For those who match the new priority criteria, testing can be booked online by going to  

Additional information:

•             People should book online instead of walking in. Walk-ins are affecting assessment centres ability to serve the community. Those walking in may be turned away, and instead asked to book online.

•             The Public Health Services COVID-19 booking line will remain available for those who do not have access to book online and those who have accessibility needs. Public Health Services COVID-19 Hotline is 905-974-9848.

•             As always, regardless of need for a potential COVID-19 test, if someone is very ill and in need of immediate care, they should go to the nearest Urgent Care Centre, Emergency Department or call 911.

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