COVID-19: Health officials apologise after pregnant Auckland mum waits four days to find out she has virus

A young mother who's 32 weeks pregnant and has COVID-19 says she's appalled that health authorities took more than four days to tell her she'd contracted the virus. 

She only found out after taking herself to an emergency clinic. 

She wasn't vaccinated - a decision she deeply regrets - and now has a message for anyone else who's hesitant: get your vaccine if you want to avoid what she's gone through.

Akinihi Austin has never been so sick in her life. 

"It felt like, honestly, someone is on your chest, putting their foot on you and pressing down so hard you can't breathe," she said.

The X-ray of her lungs terrified her.

"It was like spiderwebs on my chest."

Attached to tubes and machines - this is the brutal reality of COVID-19. 

"Without this oxygen machine that I'm on - I'm on it for three to four days - I wouldn't be able to breathe properly, and my unborn child would have difficulties to breathe as well," Austin said.

"This is what you have to go through if you get COVID."

On Middlemore Hospital's COVID-19 ward, she's 32 weeks pregnant. Her journey to get diagnosed was full of confusion and missteps. 

Last Wednesday, Austin got a test in Mangere. By Friday, she should have had her result, but hadn't heard anything. She was feeling unwell so went to her GP. 

Austin says she was told she likely just had a cold. But by Saturday night, she deteriorated further. 

"I started vomiting. I couldn't hold any food down or water down and I started getting the shivers really bad," she explained.

"I felt like my body was going to faint on me."

In the middle of the night, early Sunday, she took herself to White Cross Urgent Care in Otahuhu. 

"She brought up my results. She apologised to me on behalf of the Ministry and all and said to me that I actually do have COVID."

She couldn't believe it; it was more than four days since her test.

"I was shocked, I was scared," Austin said. "And being 32 weeks pregnant, if I get worse, my second child… I have to have a c-section and my child has to come out early."

Even now, no one has explained why she was never told she had COVID-19.

"I haven't even got a call from them, nothing," she said.

In the days when she didn't know she had the virus, her mum visited her home to collect her five-year-old.

"She came into my house, used my toilet, she was only there for five minutes. And then the next day she started feeling unwell herself and now she's got COVID."

Austin was hesitant about the vaccine, and planned to wait until after she'd had her baby. But this ordeal has changed everything. 

"I just want the message out there. I don't want any other hapū māmā going through what I went through. Think twice if you're not vaccinated."

She'll now be getting both shots as soon as she's discharged and feeling better.

Austin praised Middlemore Hospital staff for the level of care she and her unborn baby had received since she'd been admitted, saying they were "amazing".

A spokesperson for the Northern Region Health Coordination Centre told Newshub the delay in notifying her of the positive result should not have happened. 

"We apologise to Ms Austin for the distress this has caused her," the spokesperson told Newshub. 

"In this instance, the laboratory involved had equipment failure on Monday 8 November. This required the retesting of multiple samples, creating a backlog of work that took nearly a week to clear."

The spokesperson said she was contacted by public health and notified of her result on Sunday at 11:48am, but Akinihi Austin said this was only after staff at White Cross called them. 

The spokesperson said teams are working tirelessly to process tests as quickly as possible, but there can be delays of several days. 

"We advise that notification of test results can take up to five days and although most samples are resulted within two days, a small number of samples are taking longer."