Coronavirus: Dramatic scale-back of Auckland testing sites should never have happened, doctors say

Doctors say the scaling back of COVID-19 testing sites in Auckland should not have happened - and the fact the Health Minister didn't know about it points to inconsistencies and fragmentation in the response.

The number of testing sites has dramatically dropped and none are open at the weekend, which GPs say is putting more pressure on general practices which are already at "full capacity". 

Nurses are doing the mahi in Auckland's Western Springs. 

'Test, test, test' has long been the coronavirus catchcry - but that can't happen here if you're sick at the weekend as it's shut. 

"If people want to go and get checked, they should be able to do so," said resident Cheryl Tuisamoa.

"It's setting a poor standard for everyone," said another local, Jordan River.

And GPs agree. 

"The biggest risk we have is complacency with COVID," said Bryan Betty, College of GPs Medical Director. "COVID is still there. It hasn't gone away. We're at risk of breaches of the border."

During Auckland's recent outbreak, 17 community clinics were open - but that number has been slashed.

There are only six community testing stations still operating in Auckland - and only one for central Auckland, which is based 15 minutes out of the CBD in Western Springs.

But the Health Minister was unaware community clinics were scaling back.

"The closure of those testing sites was not something I was consulted on and clearly I think there was a communication challenge there," said Chris Hipkins.

There's been no shortage of communication challenges during the response, but Hipkins says there's no governance issue and the Ministry of Health would work through the problems with DHBs.

Perhaps the communication breakdown lies with the Ministry of Health. The DHB told Newshub it works "very closely" with the ministry. 

And the ministry "reviews weekly plans" from Auckland's DHBs "to ensure that we're meeting the expectations" of the testing strategy.

"There has to be consistency, there has to be one approach to this - and we can't have this fragmentation occurring," said Dr Betty.

People can still, of course, get a test from their GP - so long as you can get in. 

"GPs are very busy at the moment. Frontline medical centres are at full capacity," Dr Betty said.

And keeping clinics open seven days a week would ease that burden.