Saskatchewan WCB looking at paying for private PCR tests for COVID-19 claimants

If someone suspects they contracted COVID-19 while on the job, the Saskatchewan Workers Compensation Board (WCB) will now “consider” covering the cost of a special polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test.

This development comes a week after the WCB announced that positive rapid antigen tests would not be accepted as part of the claim process. Meanwhile, the Saskatchewan government has asked people infected with the coronavirus to request a PCR test only if their symptoms are worse than mild.

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County health officials continue to recommend against PCR testing for people with mild symptoms if they test positive with a rapid test.

“COVID claims are evaluated on a case-by-case basis,” said Jennifer Norlin Beetle, vice president of operations at WCB.

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If someone tests positive using a rapid test and suspects the infection is work-related, Norleen-Beetle said during a press conference Thursday, the WCB would “encourage” them to get a PCR test.

“We will consider reimbursement for private testing expenses if workplace exposure is under review or if it is proven to be workplace related,” Norleen-Beitel said.

Other possibilities, she added, include a doctor’s report or hospital records.

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People with mild symptoms have been told not to have PCR tests in order to preserve the option for those who need it most, according to Derek Miller, interim chief of operations for the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA).

He pointed to the increased demand at testing sites in the province. Wait times for a drive-through test peaked at four hours Thursday noon in Saskatoon, while in Regina the peak was between three and four hours at 1 p.m.

“Within SHA, we are working to ensure we can provide that level of 3,000 to 4,000 tests per day,” Miller said.

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Vicki Mowat, a health critic for the Saskatchewan National Democratic Party, told Global News that there was still a “huge contradiction” between what the WCB requires and the government’s recommendations.

She said the WCB is “on the right track” to look for a PCR test, so that a positive case is correctly identified in a person’s medical records. The solution, according to Mowat, is for the government to increase the staffing of PCR testing and make it widely available.

One of her concerns is that people won’t know right away if their COVID-19 condition will lead to long-term negative effects.

“The government did not think about this before they implemented the policy, and I am worried that people will fall through the cracks,” Mowat said.

Saskatchewan reported 1,060 new cases of COVID-19 tested by PCR on Thursday, although the true number of COVID-19 cases is likely much higher due to people who have tested positive in a rapid test.

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Saskatchewan trucking industry reacts to upcoming vaccine mandate at the border

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