St Vincent’s Hospital in Sydney has revealed that its pathology department incorrectly messaged 400 people telling them they tested negative for COVID-19 – when they actually tested positive.
- The impacted results came from samples taken on December 22 and 23
- SydPath serves a number of COVID testing sites, including Bondi’s drive-thru clinic
- Minister of Health says between 130,000 and 160,000 tests per day are carried out
The laboratory’s medical director, Professor Anthony Dodds, blamed the error on the “large volume of tests” they were processing.
The people concerned have been informed of their result, for samples taken on December 22 and 23, last night at 8 p.m.
Professor Dodds said they realized the mistake this morning.
âThese people had tested positive for COVID,â he said.
âAs soon as we became aware of the issue this morning, SydPath immediately initiated a process to contact those affected.
“We sincerely apologize to everyone affected.”
SydPath currently provides its pathology service to a number of COVID testing clinics across the state, including the Bondi drive-thru site.
A 34-year-old man who visited the popular settlement in the eastern suburbs on Wednesday, December 22, was among those who tested negative on Christmas Day.
He told the ABC that in the days after the test he started to feel worse.
Last night he went to St Vincent Hospital to “seek clarification” as he knew something was wrong despite his GP telling him to trust the PCR tests.
“I said, ‘I have confidence in myself too, I’m not doing well because every symptom I’ve had is COVID … the PCR test must be wrong,'” he told his doctor .
At the hospital, he tested positive on a rapid antigen test and was placed in the COVID ward.
He said it was a little weird and frustrating to get SydPath’s message today.
âI think it was quite frustrating, in the sense that it took 85 hours at first to get the negative test result.
“And then I had to call a GP and go to the hospital to try to clarify what was wrong with me.”
He has now received two conflicting messages from SydPath explaining why the error occurred – one attributes it to a lab error while the other says it is a desktop error.
Professor Dodds said the error may have been the result of “human error” and is currently under investigation by their emergency response team.
He said no one in the Sydney to Hobart yacht race was “thought to be trapped by these affected people.”
The error comes as testing services around NSW grapple with high demand, with many people saying they have been turned away from testing clinics because of their full capacity.
The seven-day average for COVID-19 testing was approximately 145,000 swabs per day.
The previous week’s average was 117,000.
NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard said many unnecessary swabs – which he called “tourist tests” – were causing huge backlogs for pathology services.
âWe are now getting something in the range of 130,000 to 160,000 tests a day, and it seems good at first glance, but then we have to ask ourselves why people are tested and why are we putting stressors on our. pathology system, âMr. Hazzard said.
He also said PCR test results now take between 48 and 72 hours to return a result, with most taking more than three days.
âIf you have a PCR test on the first day and you get your results in, say, 12-24 hours, well, that was valid.
“But if you don’t get results for three or four days, you may well have developed a positivity or a positive viral response anyway and you wouldn’t know it.”
Mr. Hazzard and Prime Minister Dominic Perrottet have worked with other states and territories to help ease the testing burden on NSW.
Today South Australia removed the pre-arrival testing requirement for interstate travelers, instead requiring them to take a rapid antigen test (RAT).
From January 1, Queensland is also expected to accept RAT results.
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