Health officials respond to BC doctor's concerns over coronavirus testing

Mar 31 2020, 11:40 am

BC health officials have responded after Dr. Sean Wormsbecker, a BC doctor, recently aired his concerns via YouTube about the province’s strategy for coronavirus testing.

“I see a lot of discussion about the total number of positive cases somehow being a benchmark for how we’re doing or not doing, and people are modifying their behaviour accordingly,” Wormsbecker said in the YouTube video. “The reality is that I’m only able to swab patients who are … ill enough to come into hospital.

“If I see you and you’re clinically stable, and your lungs are functioning normally, I’m going to be sending you home and directing you to self-quarantine for 14 days.”

And it’s this part of the strategy that “scares” Wormsbecker.

“It scares me [because] 10 years of clinical practice have taught me that unfortunately, patients aren’t consistent in following direction. Often what’s heard is that if we’re not testing you, we’re not taking you seriously,” he says. “That’s not the case, but it means we’re going to be really low-balling the actual numbers, and I saw several cases today that I have no doubt are positive cases.”

Compounding the problem, he claims, is that “based on our current resources, we are very much under-testing the population.”

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, however, said she doesn’t agree with Wormsbecker’s assertions.

“I actually don’t agree,” she said at a press conference on Monday. “Having been on the front lines with my colleagues in public health who are actually talking to these people who are at home and who are self-isolating, most people are absolutely doing what we need them to do, and our testing strategy … has changed so that our focus – the large number of tests we’re still doing, over 3,000 tests a day – [is] on those most likely to have this disease, and those most likely to need healthcare or hospital care.”

And this, she said, remains an important strategy.

“It’s not that we’re decreasing the number of tests we’re doing,” she stressed. “It’s that we’re focusing on the people who are most likely to need the healthcare services.”

Health officials, she said, “are still maintaining the contact tracing. We’re talking with people who have this, who have mild enough illness that they’re able to stay at home, and for the most part, that is working.”

Moving forward, “we need to understand that this is now being transmitted in our communities across the province, and that is why it is so important for all of us to do our part,” she added.

Eric ZimmerEric Zimmer

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