Sent from pillar to post for Covid-19 testing

TEST AND GO: The Ampath drive-through Covid-19 lab at 13 Pickering Street, Newton Park, is open to the public
TEST AND GO: The Ampath drive-through Covid-19 lab at 13 Pickering Street, Newton Park, is open to the public
Image: Eugene Coetzee

While many wait with bated breath to see how the country will cope with the continued increase in confirmed Covid-19 cases, at least two Port Elizabeth residents say they have had problems in their quest to be tested.

Dennis Smit, 42, a long distance truck driver told Weekend Post on Friday that after returning last weekend from Postmasburg, where he received a load of manganese and transported it to a Chinese vessel in the Port Elizabeth harbour, he developed symptoms similar to those of Covid-19.

“I feel tired all the time, I have a sore throat and have been coughing a lot, especially at night,” Smit said.

After developing these symptoms on Sunday, Smit said, the first thing he did was contact the department of health hotline.

“I spoke to a sister who was very helpful and who told me I must go to the National Health Laboratory Service [NHLS] offices in Westbourne Road. She gave me the number and said I must go there as soon as possible,” he said.

Smit went to the NHLS on Thursday morning but according to him the person at reception did not seem to know what he was talking about and gave him the hotline number to call, again.

“I called and was told my only option would be to have a private test done which costs R1,000,” Smit said.

With no medical aid and not having the necessary cash on hand, Smit said he had then been advised to go to Livingstone Hospital but was subsequently advised by a friend not to do so as it was possible that someone there had Covid-19.

Smit called the hotline again and this time was advised to self-isolate for between two and 14 days, which he has been doing since.

In a separate incident, the daughter of a 69-year-old woman who arrived from the UK in Port Elizabeth on March 3, said she too had difficulty in getting the correct information about where to go and what to do.

The woman, 44, who asked to remain anonymous, said that after her mother arrived she had shown no symptoms of the virus but after President Cyril Ramaphosa’s speech on Sunday had decided to call the hotline to get advice.

“The scary part is that it took 24 hours to get through on the hotline numbers,” the woman said.

She claimed she was then advised to take her mother and herself to be tested at any hospital or doctor.

“I phoned St. George’s hospital first and the lady I spoke to at casualty said whatever we do, do not just pitch up,” the woman said.

She was then advised to go to a private testing lab in Pickering Street to have the tests done at a cost of R1,400.

The woman said she then called her doctor who advised her to contact St. George’s again where she spoke to a woman who told her that if her mother had not shown symptoms within 10 to 12 days of arriving in Port Elizabeth she should self-isolate and if she began showing symptoms to call the hospital again.

The woman said she and her mother had been in self-isolation but after about eight days had to go back to work as she was self-employed and could not continue staying away from work.

“We are both healthy and have not shown any symptoms,” the woman said.

The spokesperson for Eastern Cape health MEC Sindiswa Gomba, Judy Ngoloi, failed to respond to questions posed by the time of going to print.