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OP-ED: Closing town’s only Covid-19 testing centre inconvenient and frustrating

As we head into cold and flu season, why is Bradford's COVID test centre closed?
2019-01-04-bob fallis sports centre snow2
Bob Fallis Sports Centre. Jenni Dunning/BradfordToday

It's August, can you believe it? Four more glorious weeks and then the kids are back to school. 

I am both excited and nervous about the season ahead. 

Excited for my eldest son who spent the entire 2020-2021 school year learning at home, away from his friends and teachers. It will be nice to get him back to school and embrace some sort of normalcy and routine. 

Nervous for cold and flu season, and how COVID-19 and the Delta variant will affect our pandemic progress. 

I have already had a little preview of what life might be looking like in the months ahead after my three-year-old caught a cold for the first time in over a year. 

In recent weeks, reports have come out stating kids are now catching common colds and other non-COVID viruses again as society reopens.

I guess this is a good thing for their immune systems, but also annoying and worrisome for an anxious parent like myself. 

My son was feeling feverish on Monday, so I decided to take him to the walk-in testing centre at Bob Fallis Arena on Tuesday. He never had a COVID test before, and although I didn't think he had the virus, I wanted to be sure. 

The clinic has been running for the better part of the year, every Tuesday morning from 10 a.m. to noon. I figured we would be in and out in no time. 

We arrived just after 10 a.m. to find a few others waiting outside the arena for a test, too. To our surprise, the doors were locked, with no one inside. 

I phoned the health unit, who informed me that the clinic should be open; they weren't sure why no one was there. 

I phoned the Southlake testing centre to book an appointment at their location instead, only to be told by a recorded message that the centre was closed. 

I gave up, went home, gave him some Tylenol and went back to work. 

Shortly after I got a notification on my phone indicating that after months of weekly testing, the Bradford test centre is no longer running. 

I ended up taking my son to a Barrie assessment centre on Wednesday. Thirty minutes out of my way. 

After checking in, screening and waiting in line, 55 minutes later we were done, plus the 30 minute ride back home. That was two hours of our day gone.

The doctor was very helpful and I was grateful for his assistance in getting the test done, but he warned me that I will probably have to continue to get my son tested every time he gets sick. 

Great. I can see myself driving to Barrie and Newmarket bi-weekly for the next six months, wasting gas and time just to get my kids tested. 

And I am lucky I work from home. What about parents who don't? Will they need to book time off, or just stay home to take their kids in for testing?

I know the case counts are low right now, but with cold and flu symptoms so similar to COVID-19, and the requirement for a negative test in order to go back to school/daycare, you would think there would be a local testing site in town. 

I look back at where Bradford was in the late winter/early spring. We were a COVID-19 hotspot, which makes me wonder why we only ever had one testing clinic per week. You would think being a hot spot, testing would be available daily or at least twice a week, for more than a few hours. 

And now our one test centre has been closed. 

When I contacted the town to see if there are plans to reopen the testing centre, they said the local health integration network is not anticipating having it reopen since case counts have dwindled to the point where it wasn't necessary to have the centre in Bradford anymore.

I truly hope the health network will consider reopening our clinic and even adding a few more days to the schedule, as I sit here and anxiously await the test results. 

Natasha Philpott

About the Author: Natasha Philpott

Natasha is the Community Editor for BradfordToday and InnisfilToday. She graduated from the Media Studies program at The University of Guelph-Humber. She lives in Bradford with her husband, two boys and two cats.
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