Taranaki iwi criticises local DHB for closing testing sites too early, telling symptomatic people to go home

A Taranaki iwi is critical of the local district health board (DHB) for closing its testing sites too early and telling symptomatic people to go home.

There were no new cases of COVID-19 in Taranaki on Saturday after a family of six tested positive late on Thursday.

But the region is still on high alert because it's believed the family was infectious for two weeks in the community.

The DHB testing site was packed up at just 1pm on Saturday, turning away symptomatic locals who work at locations of interest and had to beg nurses for a test.

"I've asked them if I could make an emergency call. They're going to check-in because I do work at one of the hotspots and I haven't been feeling very well," one said. 

"They sent some people away, but I explained to them what our situation was so they asked to move forward," said another. 

It's the only site for nasal swabbing in Hawera and was open for only three hours today. That's even though the family is known to have travelled the town and there are two locations of interest there

The iwi is calling for an extension to testing times.

"We're very concerned people are being turned away from the testing sites, in particular the ones run by the Taranaki DHB," says Graham Young of Ngāti Ruanui Healthcare.

Twenty people were turned away on Saturday and Newshub's been told the same thing happened on Friday. 

More than a thousand people were tested in Taranaki on Friday, but not Sam Lovell, who tried to get a test in Stratford.

"It was about 4:30pm, and I came down and they were all just packing up and they said they're not doing it down here. I went to others and they were all shut too," he says. 

Those in charge say testing is going well and that the site closes at 3pm for the swabs to be flown to a Wellington lab.

"We've just got to be very mindful we can't miss that flight and we can't hold onto tests here on site," says Paula Carr, the chair of Te Korowai o Ngāruahine Trust.

The trust has asked the Ministry of Health and DHB for more resources.

"If we had more devices and more swabbers, we'd be able to do more testing," Carr says.

The DHB says its testing sites worked longer hours than promoted, and it will look at extending hours depending on demand. 

"If you think you've been anywhere you might have been exposed, get tested," says Stratford District Council chief executive Sven Hanne. "If you are hesitant with vax, think again and get vaccinated."

The region is desperately hoping its contained this outbreak.