COVID-19 testing in Alice: It’s a secret

 

By ERWIN CHLANDA

 

SecureNT will not disclose the location of a Coronavirus testing facility in Alice Springs nor whether there is one here at all, while there are some in Darwin and in Katherine.

 

This morning we received a reader’s comment from Joan Carpenter who, with her husband, has returned from overseas.

 

They are in self-imposed isolation. Ms Carpenter asked: “I note Darwin and Katherine have a testing unit, but is there one here we can access?”

 

Seeking an answer to what I imagined to be a very simple question I embarked on what turned out to be a frustrating and inconclusive odyssey, encountering impertinent conduct towards well-meaning people in a global pandemic.

 

I rang the National Advice Hotline, 1800 020080, quoted on the NT Government’s COVID-19 website.

 

I asked the question: “Is there a Coronavirus testing facility in Alice Springs, and if so, where is it?”

 

For more than 30 minutes I was listening to music being played down my phone, talking to a call centre operator with very broken English, having to spell the name Alice Springs and explaining to her where it is.

 

She told me, as best as I could make out, that I would need to go to a medical facility and book in for a test but she could not tell me whether there is such a facility in Alice Springs, and if so, its location.

 

I then scrolled down the SecureNT website section and found two numbers, under the heading Testing, 1800 008 002 “for people in the NT who need to arrange testing” as well as 08 8922 8044.

 

I tried both and over 13 minutes I was listening to recordings about Power and Water and Darwin attractions, and a male voice saying: “You can request an automatic callback which enables you to leave a message that will retain your position in the queue. We call you back once your position has reached the front of the queue. If you wish to request a callback you may press the star key during these announcements.”

 

I pressed star about 10 times but instead of taking my message the recording went back to the beginning, every time.

 

I gave up and looked for other options on the SecureNT site, under “Remote communities”. I had no idea Alice Springs was one, but 1800 518 189 did take me to a human being.

 

The lady was unable or unwilling to answer my simple question and did her best to divert me back to – you guessed it – 1800 008 002 or 08 8922 8044. I protested.

 

At this point you could still blame bad luck or unfortunate glitches in a very busy system. But that could not be used as an excuse for what followed.

 

When the lady put me through to a man in the “comms department” I repeated my question, is there a testing facility in The Alice and if so, where, he said anyone wanting to be tested has to ring 1800 008 002.

 

I don’t want to be tested, I explained. I want to help a reader. She wants to know where the facility is.

 

“Now listen to me. Anyone who wants to be tested has to ring 1800 008 002,” says the man from Comms. Clearly, if there is a testing facility in Alice Springs its location is a secret.

 

That’s not a temporary glitch. That is the height of irresponsible behaviour. That exemplifies the arrogance of a government out of its depth on many issues, now deplorably including one that is going to cost lives.

 

IMAGE from SecureNT.

 

 

UPDATE March 26, 11.15am

ABC: “The NT does not report testing numbers.”

 

 

 

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6 Comments (starting with the most recent)

NB: If you want to reply to a previous comment, start your comment with this notation: @n where n is the number of the comment you want to reply to.
  1. Brett Malouf
    Posted March 27, 2020 at 12:05 pm

    Have you considered that the location might be secret for a reason like it might be unwise to tell the media just in case a whole bunch of hypochondriacs pack into a facility next to high risk people who are getting tested?
    If you really wanted to know, it’s not that hard to find, but I suspect it’s probably for the best that you don’t know where it is.

    View Comment
  2. Trevor Shiell
    Posted March 27, 2020 at 10:21 am

    Is the detention centre at Ross River still unfit for purpose?

    View Comment
  3. Bec
    Posted March 27, 2020 at 9:11 am

    Alice isn’t testing anyone. Fullstop.

    View Comment
  4. Ralph Folds
    Posted March 26, 2020 at 12:59 pm

    The lack of community testing raises many questions:
    Is the lack of testing the reason there are no reported cases here?
    Are some people feeling safe because they think the virus is not here yet?
    Are people not bothering about social distancing and hand washing because there are no reported cases?
    Are schools with remote students still running because they think students can’t become infected and can’t infect their communities?
    Many things would change if COVID-19 was found to be loose in our town but if there is no testing there could be dozens of infections before we know about it.
    Most cases of the infection are mild and some have no symptoms so it can spread unnoticed.
    Community testing is essential if the death toll is to kept low.

    View Comment
  5. Anne
    Posted March 25, 2020 at 10:27 pm

    I heard they are thinking of setting up one in the future at Nurilpa House.

    View Comment
  6. Michael
    Posted March 25, 2020 at 9:16 pm

    In contrast, South Australia just opened its second drive-through coronavirus testing station.
    They tested 17,800 people for the virus, the most per capita of anywhere in the world, and the processing time has been reduced to 21 hours.

    View Comment

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