Covid-19 Testing: “I was made to feel like I'm nothing.”
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Information on how to arrange a Covid-19 test at home can be found here.
Narration: Hi It’s Carey Scheer from JFA Purple Orange.
While Australia and the world tries to grapple with the Coronavirus pandemic, it’s super important that the experiences and concerns of people living with disability are not overlooked. So throughout this time, I’m going to be making phone calls, and reaching out to people, to hear what’s been going on for them.
Carey: Hi it’s Carey, how are you?
Maria: Oh okay then, how are you?
Carey: I’m good. How are you going? Tell me what’s been happening?
Narration: I’ve already heard lots of positive experiences, and some really great tips and insights for staying engaged and connected, and I’m going to be sharing these with you in a future podcast. But, one phone call to Maria Cantanzariti uncovered a pretty awful and negative experience that happened when she needed to get a coronavirus test. Due to the urgent need to address this situation so that others don’t have to experience what she did, we’re going to focus the entire episode on this.
Maria: I had to go for a corona test because I’ve had pneumonia again, and I am not getting over it so good. So before they do any more of anything, they wanted me to have the test. And um, we tried to get a home visit, and my doctor or me couldn’t get a home visit for the swab. Everyone said to ring SA Pathology. That’s what we did. They don’t do home visits for this test. That’s what they told me, and my doctor couldn’t get them to budge on it.
I had to go through a drive-through in a taxi, and my taxi driver went absolutely crazy when he finally worked out where I was going, because he didn’t understand what I said. And um, it took 45 minutes for me to be tested because none of the nurses were going to climb into a taxi to test me.
Narration: So just to give this some context. Maria uses a wheelchair. She doesn’t drive. So the only way for her to get to a testing centre is in an access taxi. The drive-through testing is designed so that there is minimal contact between the person who administers the test and the person who takes the test. You just roll down the window. But the way a passenger who uses a wheelchair is situated within an access taxi, they can’t get to the window. So the only option is for the nurse to get in the vehicle to administer the test, which then of course compromises the nurse.
Maria: I was so embarrassed and made to feel like I’m nothing. There was absolutely nobody else in that drive-through but me, so I shouldn’t have had to wait at all.
Carey: And then eventually someone did get in?
Maria: Yeah, the oldest nurse there said someone has got to do it. I’m going in and doing it. She said, “you should have had a home visit.” And I said, “well it wasn’t that we didn’t try! But nobody could tell us how to get one. And SA Pathology would not come out.” She just couldn’t believe it.
Carey: So tell me about what happened with the taxi driver? You said he got really angry, like, was he mad at you?
Maria: Yeah he was angry because I shouldn’t have brought him there. But how am I getting there? I rang up access cabs and just said to them, “look I think you better book me another cab. This one won’t stay with me because I have to go through the corona testing.” And she goes, “well I don’t know if we can get another cab if we tell them that.” And in the mean time he’s rung up his, the radio person and he’s telling him he shouldn’t be there because it is a corona testing line, and I’ve asked him to drive through there. But they said, “but you are there now.” And he said, “yes but I don’t want to be here.” And she said, “yeah well you need to drive through or drive out, and we’ll have to find another vehicle for her.”
Narration: So at that point the taxi driver decided he’s here now, he’ll go ahead and take her through. But again, because of the delay with no nurses wanting to get into the vehicle, Maria and the taxi driver had to sit there together for a pretty long uncomfortable and unhappy time.
Maria: All up it cost me $40 and two vouchers, and a lot of abuse.
I couldn’t believe it. It was just like a nightmare. Other disabled people need to know this before they put themselves in the same position.
Carey: I mean we definitely want to share this, but I want to try to get an answer. What can people do?
Maria: If we get a request from our doctor to go and be tested we need a number to call, so that we know who is going to come to the house and do it. We should not be leaving our house. And we all know that’s what we need to do, but without the outside world’s help. How do we do that?
Stephen: Carey how are you going?
Carey: I’m good, how are you?
Carey: Hi can you hear me?
Narration: So next I reached out to Stephen Galpin. He’s the Access Cabs Coordinator for Suburban Taxis. I sent him the recording of my phone call with Maria, as I wanted to get his take on her taxi experience. He did say he felt for Maria, and could understand her feelings, but that he wasn’t able to speak on behalf of the driver. He said the driver obviously reacted as an individual to what for him was a very stressful situation.
So then I just wanted to get some clarity. Are people allowed to book a taxi to a coronavirus test?
Stephen: That would depend on the circumstances and the individual choice of the driver. ‘Transporting possibly infected passengers’ was sent out via the taxi council and says, you may need to at times make difficult choices helping a passenger with no other transport choices. And this must be balanced out against imposing health risks to themselves, and their families and other passengers that get into the cab. So they go on to say that you may be aware of the example of a driver who was telephoned with the news that a passenger he had taken through the drive-through testing centre had tested positive. He followed the instructions that was given to self-quarantine, losing two weeks income because of the service he provided to a member of the public. And therefore, obviously it would be very useful if the health department protocol was in place to ensure the safety of drivers and passengers in this circumstance, hence recommending that there are home testing or other options there when it does come to this situation rather than expecting a taxi driver to um, be exposed to that additional risk, where if they do test positive, they have lost their livelihood when a lot of them are just living day to day.
Narration: So from the nurses at the testing centre, and the taxi company, and of course Maria, everybody is on the same page. There’s got to be a home test option available for people who can’t safely get to a testing centre.
I was finally able to get in touch with an advisor to South Australia’s Minister for Health and Wellbeing. She told me there absolutely is an option for a home test. She said there has been confusion between SA Pathology and the Communicable Disease Control Branch over who is responsible. But, she’s now directed me to a page on the SA Pathology website that details how you can get this test if needed. The page is called, ‘Accessing the SA Pathology Adelaide Domiciliary Service for Coronavirus Specimen Collection.’
It’s a mouthful, I know. Don’t worry. We are going to put a link on the Purple Orange website under the Covid-19 resources. We will also put a link up on facebook. And we will put a link on the show notes for this podcast.
The Minister for Health and Wellbeing has just announced a two-week testing blitz starting Thursday April 16th. This means that over the next two weeks, anyone who has symptoms consistent with coronavirus, no matter how mild, can now get a test.
So if you need to get a home test, as Maria’s experience shows, your GP may not know how to organise it. And the person you speak to at SA Pathology may not even know this information. So, you may need to point them to it. And if after this, you do have trouble getting a home test, please let us know, so that we can continue to monitor the situation.
Maria’s story just illustrates how important it is that we hear from you what’s going on. So, I’d like to thank Maria for sharing her story. And one huge positive to come out of it is that hopefully others don’t have to go through what she did.
A second positive is that Maria has realised she’s got a lot of great people in her life.
Maria: When all this happened everyone was saying we support you Maria. We know you’re doing the best, and all the encouragement. And then the next day I thought, stuff this, got to get on with life. Can’t let these people just put you down. I’m lucky, I’ve got some good friends.
Narration: By the way, Maria's test for Covid-19 did come back negative. If you have an experience that you want to share, or tips and strategies for staying engaged and connected during the time of coronavirus, please get in touch with Purple Orange on 08 8373 8388. You can also email me at email@example.com