A pathology worker has spilled the beans on why PCR test results are taking ages to arrive and the prognosis is not good, let me tell ya. 

The staff member posted to Reddit to explain just what’s happening inside testing labs, because they were so frustrated by people complaining about the delays

It was corroborated by a verified infectious disease expert in the sub too, so I’m feeling confident in saying it’s not just some fantasy by some Reddit basement dweller. 

It boils down to: too many people are getting tested. Which would seem obvious, but there’s a few extra details that make the whole mess a bit more concerning. 

Reddit user Scematix said in their post that over the past two years pathologies developed a batching test method, which allowed them to speed up the process. It worked fine when there were few positive tests, but now there are lots… Well, let’s just say it’s not fine. 

“This method essentially boils down to mixing multiple samples together and testing them as one unit. If the test comes back negative, all samples in the batch are resulted accordingly,” they said. “If the batch comes back as positive, we can run each sample individually to single out the culprit(s). 

“It all starts to fall apart when this percentage increases and every other batch we test is positive and requires individual testing, deleting any further testing until the positive samples are identified.”

Further comments clarified lab workers would batch up to 10 tests at a time. 

OK well surely we could just up the capacity at the testing centres and labs, right? Wrong. 

Scematix said that the staffing situation on pathologies is dire, because it’s a highly skilled role and the pandemic had been super rough on workers. Because of the training needed, it wasn’t as simple as picking anyone off the street and sticking them into some scrubs to bolster staffing. 

“Many of my colleagues quit due to the impossible workload, stress, poor compensation and inhumane treatment by our management,” they said. “Pathologies had barely just gotten over the hurdle that was the prior lockdown, with very few resources and dwindling staffing.

“New hires are not yet up to speed, and are expected to process double the amount of specimens with the same amount of resources.”

Verifying a positive result is also a time-consuming task that only experienced people can do. 

On top of that, they said there was also an equipment shortage in Australia at the moment. Not good!

Finally, one of the most prominent villains of our age rears its ugly, stupid head: capitalism. 

“Profiteering is running rampant and private labs will never admit that they’ve bitten off more than they can chew, especially when the quality of their service has no impact on the amount of money they’ll make,” Scematix said. 

All this has had a knock on effect on hospital operations too. Delays in testing have meant people presenting to emergency departments have to wait longer to get help. 

Well then. If only we had years to prepare for a major outbreak of COVID-19. 

Oh wait. We did. But instead of doing that, we focused on increasing police powers and throwing up hard borders, in the hope that this would never happen. 

In any event, it seems like testing staff are under an enormous amount of pressure so please be nice to them.