The Covid-19 test centre in Ardee PICTURE: Arthur Kinahan
Louth people fearing they had Covid-19 were told they would have to travel to Mullingar to get tested as the local testing centre in Ardee was closed over Christmas.
The Covid-19 testing centre in Ardee was closed for several days over the Christmas period with people suspecting they had the virus being told they would have to make the four-hour round trip to be tested.
The closure of the local testing centre came as county Louth had one of the highest rates of confirmed cases of Covid-19 nationwide and just days before the Government put the country into Level 5 lockdown again due to an alarming surge in positive cases.
Fianna Fáil Senator for Louth Erin McGreehan said she received many calls from constituents about the closure of the facility in Ardee and the resulting delays in close contacts being able to get tested.
Senator McGreehan told the Democrat that local people who contacted her were told they would have to travel to Mullingar to be tested or wait until the facility reopened.
She said she was left ‘deflated and concerned’ over the reduced capacity of the Ardee COVID-19 test centre during the Christmas period while the county was suffering from one of the highest rates of the virus.
Senator McGreehan said: “Over a few days over the Christmas period, I have received many calls from constituents in Louth about the closure of the Ardee testing centre and the resulting delays in close contacts being able to get tested.
"People were asked to make the four-hour round trip to Mullingar during this period.
“Louth has recorded some of the highest numbers of coronavirus cases in recent months, so I am surprised that the decision was made to close the Ardee testing centre.”
Senator McGreehan said she was disappointed and concerned that people who were suffering from suspected symptoms of the virus and feeling unwell were being told they would have to travel to Mullingar to get tested.
“Some people were unable to make the long journey and so they had to wait until the centre reopened in Ardee to be tested”, she said.
“This also delayed close contacts being contacted to be told, so there could have been people locally unaware they had been in close contact with someone with Covid-19 and were visiting their parents or elderly relatives unaware of the situation.
“It is very concerning that the decision was made to close the testing facility.”
Senator McGreehan said she has contacted the HSE and the Department of Health to raise her concerns.
“I understand capacity might not be at its highest over Christmas but with the number of cases in Louth, I don't think this centre should have been closed at any stage," Senator McGreehan said.
The local Covid-19 testing centre reopened last Tuesday, December 29.
The testing centre in Dundalk was closed with the hub moved to St Brigid's Hospital in Ardee in October.
The Ardee hub replaced the Community Testing Centres Muirhevnamor and in Slane Health Centre Co. Meath and serves the entire population of Louth and Meath.
Local TDs and senators have raised concerns about the testing hub being moved highlighting increased travel time for many people and saying two testing centres were needed.
A HSE spokesman responding to the Democrat's query about the Covid-19 testing centre in Ardee said: “Every effort is being made by our teams to provide priority health services at this time.
“Test centres were available in all Community Healthcare Organisation areas over the Christmas period.
“Everyone who needed a test was offered one on the same or following day.
“At times this may have meant that people were asked to travel further than usual.
“We are continuing to work hard to provide as many people as possible with test appointments, our test centres are busy so you may be asked to travel a little further than usual and we encourage everyone to attend appointments that they are given.”