COVID-19 call center deluged with test referrals, causing small delays

Coronavirus testing.
Coronavirus testing. Source: ERR

The number of referrals from family doctors to take coronavirus tests has doubled during the past couple of weeks, meaning that there is now a queue to get tested. Wait times shouldn't be longer than three days, however. The reason given is call center capabilities.

There are 17 places for taking corona tests around Estonia. Tallinn has the most of these, four tents plus testing at the airport and in the harbor area, ETV news show "Aktuaalne kaamera" (AK) said Tuesday.

There are no queues at the testing points themselves, because all times are booked in advance. Reserving appointments has become more time-consuming, however. "Currently, the main limiter of capability is the call center, where we are working at full capacity," member of the board of testing service provider Medicum, Tõnis Allik, said.

Call center staff had been augmented, he added.

"While earlier, 12-15 people were working at the call center every day, now there are 19," Allik said.

People who have received referrals from their family doctors are then called from the call center, rather than vice versa. The volume of referrals has increased during the last couple of weeks, with 3,600 on Monday, September 14. On other weekdays, the number stands at around 1,800, AK reported.

"Currently, we have promised family doctors that we will call any patient who received a referral at latest the next day and he or she should be able to take the test the day after, and receive the answer on the third day," Allik explained.

However, there are cases where the test wait times can take longer.

"It is possible that such situations have occurred. Some points do not work every day but work every other day and then there can be such a coincidence. We generally monitor it quite closely and as soon as there is a queue longer than one day, we increase the point capacity," Allik said.

According to Minister of Social Affairs Tanel Kiik (Center) the coronavirus analytical capacity in Estonia is, on the contrary, currently very high.

"There are no 'tests behind the tests' at the moment," he told AK.

"Instead, it is a question of collecting and collating the tests, in hazardous conditions. This requires health care personnel. It requires personal protective equipment, it requires additional resources. This capability needs to be improved here and there," Kiik said.

Cabinet to look at winter COVID-19 testing finances

This Thursday, September 17, the government is set to also discuss the issue of financing tests.

"According to the previous agreement - which we agreed in June - we had made the financial decisions through to the end of August/ beginning of September; the next months until the winter must be decided upon now," Kiik said.


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Editor: Roberta Vaino, Andrew Whyte

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