Tri-Cities will get new COVID test site, officials say one day after 'burnt out' doctors announce closure
PORT COQUITLAM, B.C. -- A new COVID-19 testing facility will open in the Tri-Cities, officials said just 24 hours after a temporary location announced it is closing its doors next week.
On Thursday, doctors at the Port Coquitlam COVID testing clinic sounded the alarm that residents in the Tri-Cities and surrounding communities may be left with no COVID testing sites next month during a time when new case numbers have been soaring.
The next day, Fraser Health Authority announced a new walk-in and drive-through testing facility will be opening in Coquitlam.
Norm Peters, vice-president of regional care integration with Fraser Health, said plans were already in the works to open the new site.
"While it may appear that we are opening in response, it actually was happening all along," Peters said. "The timing of which, though, is fortunate for us because we are opening our centre, which comes closely after this one is closing."
The new testing site is located at 2796 Aberdeen Ave. at the Translink Coquitlam Central park-and-ride lot.
Fraser Health said it will have the capacity to conduct up to 800 tests a day.
"It's probably more than tripling or quadrupling the current testing capacity, so it's a significant increase to current testing," said Fraser Health president and CEO Dr. Victoria Lee.
The group of independent family physicians opened the temporary Influenza-Like Illness Assessment Clinic after learning a site in New Westminster was closing in June.
"We did not feel comfortable with this gap of service to our community, and as a result, we made significant sacrifices to open the Tri-Cities COVID-19 Clinic in Port Coquitlam," read a letter written by Dr. Jordan Sugie and Dr. Carllin Man.
According to the letter written to the community, they anticipated Fraser Health would open a high-capacity testing site and their clinic, which has been operating at Integrated Wellness Medical Centre, was meant to temporarily serve the community until that happened.
"Unfortunately, after four months, this has still not happened. With our limited staff and resources, we are no longer able to continue running our testing site because our doctors are burnt out and our staff are overworked -- we simply cannot continue for our own health," Sugie and Man wrote.
Coquitlam Mayor Richard Stewart said he is grateful for the doctors for stepping up and providing services to the community.
"We applaud that team of doctors -- that said, they're exhausted. We find no fault in them for choosing now to close the facility after four months," Stewart said.
"We know that none of this is precedented...our goal now is to establish a testing centre and not to point fingers, but rather to make sure that we're all working in the same direction," he said.
The private Port Coquitlam clinic's last day for COVID testing is Friday, Oct. 2.
Fraser Health's new Coquitlam testing centre is scheduled to open Monday, Oct. 5.