VCH reminds residents to plan ahead before visiting COVID-19 test collection sites

SINCE November 16, all residents in the Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) region are offered two options for COVID-19 test collection: either saline gargle or nasopharyngeal swab when they visit certain COVID-19 test collection sites. However, test collectors are reporting some recipients arrive unprepared for the saline gargle test collection, excluding this as a viable testing option.

VCH advises members of the public who wish to use the COVID-19 saline gargle device to avoid eating, drinking, vaping or smoking, brushing their teeth or chewing gum for at least one hour prior to taking this test. Research has shown this is necessary to ensure the test provides an accurate and reliable result.

To properly complete the gargle test collection, recipients must swish and gargle saline water in their mouth for 30 seconds under the supervision of a test administrator.

Saline gargle collection is currently available at 14 test collection sites across urban and rural VCH communities, and accounts for just over 30 per cent of all COVID-19 tests performed in the region.

Test collection sites, listed on the VCH website, where the gargle test collection is available include:

– Three Bridges Test Collection Centre

– Vancouver Community College

– Honoria Conway at St. Vincent’s

–  DTES COVID-19 Test Collection Centre

– North Vancouver Test Collection Centre (ICBC Capilano Claims Centre)

– Richmond Test Collection Centre (jetSET parking lot)

– Richmond Test Collection Centre (Richmond Hospital)

– Squamish Assessment Centre

– Pemberton Health Centre

– Whistler Health Care Centre

– Sechelt Assessment Centre

– Powell River Test Collection Centre at the Recreation Complex (drive through)

– R.W. Large Hospital

– Bella Coola General Hospital

The Public Health Laboratory at the BC Centre for Disease Control, BC Children’s Hospital and Provincial Lab Medicine services – all programs of PHSA – worked together to develop the gargle test at the start of the pandemic to relieve supply chain demand for swabs for nasopharyngeal sample collection. During the test’s pilot program, laboratory and medical staff found the test was also an easier and more comfortable option for children and their parents and caregivers. The saline gargle devices were first offered to school-aged children in the VCH region on September 17, before it was later extended to all residents in November.

B.C. was the first province in Canada to offer this test collection option to its residents as part of its COVID-19 test collection protocol.

The BCCDC has published a simple video guide for parents and caregivers which demonstrates how they can practice with their child from home, before they arrive at a COVID-19 test collection site. A video with guidance for adults has also been created. VCH advises waiting at least two hours between practicing and doing the actual test collection to avoid affecting test results.

VCH continues to advise anyone with cold or flu like symptoms to use the BC COVID-19 Self-Assessment Tool to determine if they require assessment or testing for the virus. The wait times for test collection is also available for those planning to get tested.