1. Home
  2. Health

Montreal health agency unable to analyze COVID-19 tests in time, throws out thousands

Resident left wondering if she should get booster shot after PCR test results never arrived

A COVID-19 testing lab in Montreal was overwhelmed with tests and couldn't analyze them all within 72 hours. The tests were ultimately destroyed.

A COVID-19 testing lab in Montreal was overwhelmed with tests and couldn't analyze them all within 72 hours. The tests were ultimately destroyed.

Photo: (Austin Grabish/CBC)

RCI

When Lauren Aghabozorgi got news that she had been in contact with somebody with COVID-19 on Jan. 2, she immediately went into isolation.

When Lauren Aghabozorgi got news that she had been in contact with somebody with COVID-19 on Jan. 2, she immediately went into isolation.

But a couple of days later, she decided to confirm she had reason to quarantine. So she headed out for a PCR test at a nearby clinic in northern Montreal.

As I was waiting for results, which I never got, I completed an isolation of about 10 days at home, she said.

Aghabozorgi attended online classes, but stayed inside. She didn't even go to get groceries, despite never getting results.

She got an email this week, roughly 14 days after the test, telling her that the sample was tossed out because it couldn't be analyzed in time.

I am not surprised, she said, but it left her disappointed in the health-care system.

The health agency in northern Montreal, CIUSSS du Nord-de-l'Île-de-Montréal, said in a news release Wednesday that laboratory limits were exceeded between Jan. 3 and 7, resulting in the loss of 5,462 COVID-19 tests because they could not be analyzed within 72 hours.

'We sincerely apologize'

The agency says the sharp increase in demand for screenings at the start of the year, coupled with successive equipment failures, were behind the mishap.

The samples were destroyed and the users concerned were informed, the release said.

We sincerely apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused our users, the CIUSSS said.

At-risk patients are encouraged to get re-tested if they still have symptoms, but everybody else can take a rapid test if they have symptoms, the release said.

Lauren Aghabozorgi went into isolation on Jan. 2, got a PCR test a couple days later and didn't hear back from the Montreal health agency for about two weeks.

Lauren Aghabozorgi went into isolation on Jan. 2, got a PCR test a couple days later and didn't hear back from the Montreal health agency for about two weeks.

Photo: (Submitted by Rosalie Trail)

Aghabozorgi said she was still left wondering if she had COVID or not, and was unsure if she should get her booster shot. Quebec had previously encouraged people who had been infected to wait at least eight weeks before getting a vaccine dose.

People like Aghabozorgi can go get the shot, according to Quebec Public Health.

The province said last week that anyone who wishes to get a booster, including those who recently had COVID-19 (new window), should get one as soon as possible to have better protection against the Omicron variant.

Faced with tens of thousands of people seeking PCR tests on a daily basis and a dwindling quantity of screening supplies, Quebec public health announced on Jan. 5 that it was putting an end to testing the general public for the coronavirus.

That's around the same time around the same time Aghabozorgi went to get screened.

CBC News with files from Kate McKenna

Headlines