Sick patient questions being denied COVID-19 test in Sioux Falls

Published: May. 14, 2020 at 8:12 PM CDT
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While testing is increasing for some of the most vulnerable in our communities, a South Dakota State Representative is receiving calls from constituents who say they meet the guidelines for COVID-19 testing but are told there are not enough supplies for their test.

Allison Smith was taking measures to protect herself but still became ill. Her symptoms matched the COVID list, so she called a Sioux Falls hospital for directions.

She was told "that I should assume I'm positive and isolated at home," said Smith.

Smith was surprised when she was refused a test.

"They don't have more than a few hundred tests at their site and they aren't able to test everyone," said Smith.

Frustrated with the response, she turned to her state representative Linda Duba.

"The fact that we're still in this situation of limited test supply is a bit frustrating to me at this point," said Duba.

State leaders have described an abundance of testing supplies at multiple news conferences. Secretary of the South Dakota Department of Health Kim Malsam-Rysdon described the volume of test equipment and capability at a news conference on May 1.

"The 3000 per day, in terms of processing those tests would happen at labs at a lot of different levels," said Malsam-Rysdon.

Governor Kristi Noem also commented on testing capability at the same press conference. "The supply chain has gotten much better in recent days and we don't anticipate that there would be a shortage in the future," said Governor Noem.

Actual testing numbers, outside of the Smithfield incident, have been a few hundred each day.

Through an open records request, Dakota News Now asked for an inventory list of COVID-19 testing supplies statewide. We received only information on the State Laboratory, showing over 150,000 swabs for collecting COVID-19 test samples.

With various testing machines, Representative Duba is concerned supplies on hand, may not match the need.

"150,000 sounds good, but if they can't be used in the mechanism or the testing unit that you've been given, it does us no good at all," said Duba.

Duba continues to hear from others in her district meeting the list of COVID-19 symptoms but refused a test.

"Request a test if you think that you need it. And if you feel like you're not getting the help that you need, contact your legislator," said Duba.

Smith says her home health care and followup calls from her provider were great. They also brought her an oximeter to test oxygen levels and contact her daily. She also asks daily for a COVID-19 test and continues to be refused. While Smith is recovering, she is, however, concerned for others.

"Are there others out there like me who have all the symptoms, but haven't been tested? I wonder how many didn't get follow up care because they didn't have someone advocating for them like my legislator did," said Smith.

Dakota News Now reached out to Sioux Falls Hospitals and a local clinic. Two directed any testing supply questions to the State Department of Health, and one did not respond. Meanwhile, a State Department of Health employee responded that they are "not able to speak to supplies and equipment acquired by healthcare or private laboratories."