PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — A Portland woman said she wasn’t able to receive a COVID-19 test for two weeks, despite doctors telling her repeatedly that she likely had the virus.
Ailsa Court, 35, said she didn’t have any pre-existing conditions when she became “fully symptomatic” with a dry cough, fever, and shortness of breath on March 16. She was told via a telehealth appointment she couldn’t get the test because that was reserved only for people whose condition was severe enough to be admitted to the hospital and healthcare workers on the front line.
“At every point, every time I talked to a doctor or been in the presence of a doctor, they said yeah, you’ve got it, we just can’t test you. You have all the symptoms, this makes sense. Just know you have it, we just can’t give you a test,” Court told KOIN 6 News.
Her healthcare provider is Kaiser Permanente and she’s had multiple telehealth appointments and a couple of in-person check ups at their Mt. Scott campus in Clackamas.
Court said she felt “crackling” in her lungs about a week after first noticing symptoms and went to the emergency room. Doctors gave her a chest x-ray to rule out pneumonia, gave her a test for flu and respiratory syncytial virus and they both came out negative.
At other times, Court said her lungs felt “on fire,” a temperature that hovered around 100 degrees Fahrenheit, back pain, migraines and digestive issues. She the symptoms have since gradually lessened over the weeks
Court said she feels really sympathetic to doctors, recognizing they are likely overwhelmed and “thrown in the deep end.”
“It’s totally out of their control that they can’t test people and they don’t have adequate information to work on.”
KOIN 6 News reached out to Kaiser Permanente, who said they cannot discuss specific patients out of respect for privacy, but shared their current testing protocol in light of limited testing materials.
“Current criteria at Kaiser Permanente is to test symptomatic patients in the hospital and in nursing facilities; frontline health care workers with symptoms; and individuals identified by public health officials as having been in contact with a confirmed COVID-19 case,” Kaiser Permanente spokesperson Michael Foley wrote to KOIN 6 News via email. “People who have symptoms that may indicate COVID-19 are asked to stay home, monitor their symptoms and be in contact with a doctor or nurse. Many people with COVID-19 will recover well at home and not require hospital care.”
However, as the ability to conduct more tests improve, the criteria for who can be tested may also expand, Foley said.
Court eventually inquired to a much smaller health clinic about receiving a COVID-19 test, Woodstock Natural Health Clinic in Southeast Portland. She finally got the test Wednesday and is expecting to get results in about three days.
Dr. Joanna May of Woodstock Natural Health Clinic told KOIN 6 News their clinic is trying their best to help people, despite having limited personal protective equipment and tests, which are sourced from Quest Diagnostic.
She said the threshold to test clients at their establishment is not only based on severity of a patients’ symptoms, but also their risk of spreading the virus to others.
“We are seeing a decent amount of people who are having mild respiratory symptoms who meet other criteria, like exposure risk, but who don’t require immediate hospitalization,” May said.
She added the clinic has been seeing a lot people who haven’t been getting tested and were told by doctors to go home and rest.