Published: 19 January 2022

Independent Murchison MLC Ruth Forrest says North-West Coasters have been let down by both the state and federal governments when it comes to COVID test result wait times and the availability of rapid antigen tests.

Ms Forrest said members of one North-West family isolated for seven days before the family member waiting for the test received a negative result.

"The recent decision to contract PCR testing to private provider North West Pathology has comprehensively failed those relying on timely test results," she said.

"For anyone to be required to isolate for a full seven days after the test, while waiting for a test result, is totally unacceptable.

"This is the experience of at least one North-West family with others waiting up to 5 days."

Ms Forrest said people were missing out on work because of the delay, recalling the experiences of one Coastal resident who missed out on casual shifts and also missed out on going to scheduled appointments because they were isolating.

Health Minister Jeremy Rockliff said the Royal Hobart Hospital lab will temporarily step in to support North West Pathology in Burnie with processing.

"We expect this should result in a significant reduction in turnaround times," he said.

Ms Forrest said the "unacceptable situation" of having to wait days for a test result was compounded by a lack of rapid antigen tests on the Coast.

"Even those that can be collected from government provided sites, the only available site for the North-West is Penguin - this is an up to six hour return trip for residents of Circular Head and the West Coast," she said.

"The federal government's failure to secure enough RAT's prior to opening the borders nationally means the federal government free supply to health care card holders will not occur for another ten days.

"Why can't our Prime Minister follow the lead of many other nations and provide free RATs to all households?"

In response to Ms Forrest's claims, a spokesperson for Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt said "we categorically reject those claims".

"Our government has been an early adopter of RATs and has been purchasing them since August 2021 for RACFs (residential aged care facilities)," the spokesperson said.

"The Member for Murchison, like Labor, continues to play politics with COVID-19."

At Thursday's press conference, Premier Peter Gutwein announced a strategy for those in regional areas needing RATs, which included a contactless door-to-door courier service.

The Advocate, Friday 14 January 2022

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