The testing capacity at the GGD’s is jammed. The consequences of this are especially visible in education. Because when a teacher waits for a result, sometimes the whole class waits. Meanwhile, the increased demand for coronavirus testing is leading to more and more commercial supply of coronavirus testing outside the GGDs.
Today, GGD figures show that people on average have to wait a day and a half before they can go. A quarter of the people who do a coronavirus test have to wait longer than 48 hours for the results. Staff waiting for a test and the results are sometimes unavailable for up to five working days. Hiring temporary workers costs money.
These increasing waiting times at the Municipal Health Centers really bother schools. Director Esther van den Berg of Dalton primary school De Meer in Amsterdam has many staff sitting at home waiting for their coronavirus test. As a result, she was already forced to send two classes home.
“I have seven people at home today waiting for the coronavirus test. Fortunately, not just teachers.” Teachers have to wait days for the results, while they don’t usually turn out to be sick.
As a result, there are also concerns about costs. “Are you sick if you wait for the results of your test, or not? As long as teachers aren’t sick and if I find a replacement, I pay double personnel costs. My school umbrella organisation will go bankrupt if we do that. So that’s not a solution either.”
They don’t want to wait for the GGD at the Brinkhoven nursing home in Heerde. The initial period of the coronacris was a “real hell” for his institution. “A lot of people died with us. We don’t want another total lockdown.”
According to Bleijenberg, the test street now has a waiting time of two to three days. “But we need to know as soon as possible whether personnel have a corona or not,” says Bleijenberg, who already drew up his own plan in July and arranged commercial tests for his personnel via a private laboratory that has a result within 24 hours.
Fifty tests have now been done. He doesn’t worry too much about the costs. “It’s 90 euros per test. For the time being, we pay that out of our own pocket. Those costs are always lower than the costs of someone you have to hire briefly as a substitute.”
Health care and education unions have asked Minister Hugo de Jonge to give priority to test lanes for their staff. That is also a wish of the Lower House. But De Jonge says today that this is quite a complicated puzzle. “‘Because if the waiting times for the rest of the staff increase dramatically as a result, we’ll have another problem. I will get back to you as soon as possible. I think end of the week.”
The amounts that commercial providers charge for a corona test are as high as 200 euros. They guarantee the results within 24 hours. School director Van den Berg: “I find it incomprehensible that we don’t get priority. I don’t think it’s the intention to pay for a commercial test with tuition money.”
The director of primary school De Meer is now encountering more and more practical problems. “I’ve agreed with parents that we’ll provide distance education at home on the second day. But that’s also a job. We had arranged this well during the lockdown. But what do you do when a class just sits at home for two days? Do you give them assignments and all the books? Or do I ask the teacher to make a video with instructions for the students?”
She’s especially afraid of the toddler groups. “Those little ones don’t keep a distance from the teacher. He’s always in contact with the children. But with a cold teacher? Are we going to give those kids distance education?”