The remarks were made during an exchange between Conservative MP Michelle Rempel Garner and Switch Health CFO Olga Jilani, who told the committee that the company was contractually obligated to ensure all tests were performed under the supervision of a “health professional”.
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“Were samples taken without the supervision of a healthcare professional?” Rempel Garner asked.
“Medical professionals were still monitoring the collection of samples,” Jilani said. “All telehealth professionals who observe specimen collection are also supervised by an RN or API. “
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Switch Health executives answer questions at parliamentary hearing
Switch Health has faced complaints from travelers who say they have had to wait in quarantine longer than necessary due to delays in receiving test results.
Five employees of Blast Marketing, a contractor hired by Switch Health, also told Global News they were asked to identify themselves as ‘nurses’ while overseeing COVID-19 testing on secure telehealth services , even if they have no qualification to use this title.
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Jilani also addressed previous Global News reporting directly, insisting that all claims that the company has asked employees to misrepresent themselves are false.
“We are proud to employ over 1,100 nursing professionals,” Jilani said. “We also employ a small number of trained telehealth generalists who are licensed to oversee this type of testing process.
“Any suggestion that Switch Health has ever asked employees to identify themselves as a nurse when they are not is categorically false. “
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Blast Marketing, the contractor whose employees told Global News they were asked to identify themselves as nurses, also denied the claims.
In a previous written statement, Blast Marketing said it had “no knowledge of any statement indicating, or reason to believe, that a team member is fraudulently presenting himself as a registered nurse or a nursing assistant. authorized ”.
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“Blast Marketing has provided Switch Health with field operations, administrative staff, call center support, and telehealth personnel during peak periods,” the company said. “Our team does not falsely portray themselves as nurses or any other form of health care professional.”
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Blast Marketing also provided Global News with anonymous testimonials from two people the company claimed to be employees. Testimonies indicated that employees were never asked to identify themselves as nurses.
Switch Health is based in Ontario, which has granted exemptions for who can supervise the nasal swab process, the College of Nurses of Ontario (ONC) said. This means that it is not necessarily necessary for a healthcare professional to supervise the test.
But CNO said it was illegal for anyone to practice nursing or use the nursing designation without a valid certificate of registration.
A $ 100 million contract
Earlier this year, the federal government awarded Switch Health a contract worth nearly $ 100 million to perform COVID-19 tests at border crossings, airports and for returning travelers.
At Friday’s hearing, Switch Health chief executive Dilian Stoyanov described the startup as “a local Canadian success story that fulfilled an uphill task during the pandemic, bringing essential health services to a growing world. more virtual ”.
He also stated that “all samples taken under the supervision of a telehealth professional, nurse or telehealth generalist are carried out in accordance with the laws of the respective province.”
Canada fails COVID-19 border tests
A Global News report released in April revealed how hundreds of travelers described the problems with Switch Health’s testing program, including long wait times and missing test kits.
Switch Health told Global News in an email that a collection of 250 online complaints represented only 0.007% of all tests administered to date. The company also said it had ramped up operations and continuously hired new employees to upgrade systems and reduce wait times, but said it was going through “growing pains.”
Conservative leader Erin O’Toole criticized Switch Health’s ability to deliver test results on time, saying that “one in six of their tests failed to provide a test result in the quarantine period of 14 days “.
“This failure rate is unacceptable,” O’Toole said in Question Period Thursday.
Statistics provided by the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) show that 17% of tests performed after arrival by Switch Health were returned after the expiration of the mandatory 14-day quarantine period.
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PHAC said changes to testing protocols in late April significantly reduced the percentage of post-arrival tests that are delayed.
PHAC said 99% of post-arrival tests performed by Switch Health are now complete within the required 14-day period. The company echoed the comments during Friday’s hearing.
The federal government adopted progressively stricter testing requirements for returning international air travelers in January and February. This included requirements to be tested for COVID-19 immediately upon arrival at the airport, as well as mandatory post-arrival testing before leaving quarantine.
International air travelers have also been required to self-quarantine at government-approved hotels upon arrival in Canada while awaiting a negative COVID-19 test.
Jordan Paquet, vice president of public affairs for Switch Health, told the committee that the company received the contract after launching a bidding process. He said the company applied through the appropriate channels and met the necessary criteria to secure the contract.
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