People that feel unwell seek emergency treatment in order to get tested due to the shortage of rapid test kits. Experts say it not only prevents the critical care of patients in grave condition, but also increases the risk of cluster infection.
A long line has formed at the testing station outside this hospital's ER. Some people waited 40 minutes to get tested, while others walked away empty-handed. The surge in the number of COVID-19 cases has been compounded by the dearth of rapid test kits. Many people with concerns about infection are going to hospitals to get PCR tests. This situation is particularly serious in hospitals in the greater Taipei area.
Resident: “I came to see my husband. I arrived too late and they said all there were no spaces left. They told me to try again in the afternoon, at 1 p.m.”
Resident: “We want to get tested on a regular basis and see what our health condition is, in order to comply with our company's policy. We have to get tested.”
People rushing to hospitals to get tested may end up crowding out patients in need of critical care and increasing the risk of cluster infection. The Taiwan Society of Emergency Medicine issued four testing guidelines in response. Asymptomatic people that haven't been in contact with confirmed cases do not need to get tested. Those with mild symptoms can take a rapid test themselves. Those that have been in contact with confirmed cases or have been identified as contacts and need to quarantine and have mild symptoms should first take a rapid test themselves and go to a community testing site if they test positive. Emergency care should be limited to those experiencing chest pain or chest tightness, are unconscious, or have moderate to severe cases.
Chen Shih-ying, Emergency Physician, NTU Hospital: “When you mix people at risk and people not at risk together, then there will be the risk of mutual infection. Additional testing will definitely affect the capacity to treat emergency room patients. Perhaps other emergency physicians or doctors from other departments will have to be called in to assist.”
Doctors say effective triage is the only way to lighten the pressure on medical treatment resources.