Residents are being forced to wait up to 200 hours for their COVID-19 tests results as pathology staff struggle to catch up on a backlog of samples.
Southern IML Pathology have extended their temporary closure of drive-through clinics at Albion Park, Berkeley, Fairy Meadow, Shellharbour, Warilla, and at JJ Kelly Park and Denison Street in Wollongong from Tuesday, January 11 to Friday January 14 to help improve turn-around times.
The Illawarra Mercury has since been inundated with dozens of stories from residents whose lives are in limbo due to the lengthy turnaround times and shortage of rapid antigen tests.
Wollongong resident Ethan Everett has been self-isolating with his girlfriend Rachel Watman for the past ten days so far after taking a test at JJ Kelly Park.
"We went to Sydney for new years and came back and our phones were blowing up with the health alerts so we got tested," he said.
"I'm lucky because I'm not back at work until the 17th but Rachel hasn't been able to work or get paid.
"I was expecting three or four days' wait but this is ridiculous.
"Every day we try to get rapid tests but we miss out and we are starting to lose our minds."
Wollongong resident Renee Johnstone said she is still waiting for the result from her test taken at Denison Street clinic on January 4.
"I got tested because I had a sore throat and felt really tired and I still haven't heard anything back," she said.
"I've had to take time off work with no pay because I have a new job and I can't get hold of any RAT tests.
"I've got no symptoms so I've taken myself out of isolation but it's the stress of not even knowing my result."
Another Wollongong resident, who did not want to be named, said she was still waiting on her results from a test taken at the Fairy Meadow clinic four weeks ago.
"It's clear they have lost the result but no one is telling us that," she said. "There's just no point getting tested if it's like this but no one can get any RATS either."
Several pharmacies confirmed they will be getting a number of RAT tests delivered during the week, however residents cannot receive information on availability over the phone.
"Pharmacies are receiving deliveries of rapid antigen tests regularly and are available on a first come, first serve basis," a spokesperson for Chemist Warehouse Wollongong Central said.
"Rapid antigen tests cannot be put on hold or aside."
Other pharmacies said they had sold out of the tests and hoped to replenish supplies early next week,
The Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District said the temporary closure was occurring to improve turnaround times on test results, amid high demand.
"We thank the community for their understanding during the current high demand for COVID-19 testing," the organisation said.
"Please be assured that our staff, and private pathology staff, continue to work around the clock to get results back as quickly as possible."
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