MICHELE BEATON: calling on Minister Hudson to provide immediate access to rapid tests for community organizations needing them

While the King government is failing to control the spread of Omicron in this COVID wave, community organizations have gone above and beyond to ensure that vital services continue to be offered in a safe way. Community organizations serve our most vulnerable Islanders including seniors, persons with disabilities, children, the homeless, and people at risk. One way they have ensured safety is through the use of rapid tests to detect and prevent the spread of COVID.

Now the King government has directed PEI nonprofits and charities to apply through the Canadian Red Cross to access a federally funded rapid test supply rather than through the province. Based on recent information from the Canadian Red Cross (PEI Division), it generally takes 2-3 weeks to receive, process, and approve applications, and then coordinate shipments of test kits. This means for organizations applying today may receive their supply of tests by the end of January, provided their application is even approved.

I am deeply disappointed that the King government, through its own failure to plan, has left community service providers with no immediate access to tests as existing supplies are running dangerously low. However, I am not surprised. This government has continually demonstrated that it does not make vulnerable Islanders a priority. Action for them is usually an afterthought and is often treated as an inconvenience.

Reports from community partners suggest the Red Cross application process is difficult and time-consuming – requiring financial statements, staffing details, and more. It also requires multiple steps, meaning that requests for kits first need an online application to be completed, then a phone interview to verify, and then online training to learn to administer the rapid test.

Helping keep vulnerable Islanders safe should not be this difficult. Why does the King government choose to make things harder than they ought to be? From failing to communicate clearly and consistently to creating unnecessary bureaucracy and red tape, this government is making decisions that will guarantee failure in our public health responses.

But Minister Ernie Hudson can make an improvement if he chooses to take action. I am calling on him to immediately provide rapid tests to community organizations that are waiting for approval and/or shipment from Red Cross.