Limited supplies of rapid antigen tests (RATs) in regional WA is putting communities at increased risk of COVID-19 according to Shadow Regional Health Minister Hon Martin Aldridge MLC.

“Having visited many regional communities over the past week there is no doubt that RATs are in high demand and short supply.”

Mr Aldridge said he heard first-hand from health providers in Kalgoorlie, Kambalda, Esperance and Ravensthorpe about ongoing difficulty sourcing RATs for staff and patients.

“The State Governments decision to outlaw RATs until very recently has left communities and health providers caught short and still struggling to access these important tests,” he said.

“Despite many regional communities having limited COVID-19 testing options, if any at all, access to RATs does not appear to be reaching small and remote communities where they are needed most.”

Mr Aldridge also questioned the State Government’s announcement of a paltry five free RATs per household.

“Five free RATs is grossly insufficient for regional households when you consider that alternative access to testing is not easily available in most communities.

“An average family could easily use up their entire testing capacity in just a single day.

“Without access to testing, children may be unable to return to school and critical workers could be forced into isolation for up to seven days.

“While the government has not ruled out providing further RAT tests, the slow rollout to get these tests into the regions places patients and communities at risk.

“The free RAT program will use approximately 5% of the total RATs WA has available, showing there is significant capacity to increase supply to regional WA.”

Mr Aldridge said regional patients still lacked access to COVID-19 testing options.

“We have seen recent failure of testing capacity in Geraldton and Yalgoo in the Mid West, where the WA Country Health Service could not staff testing facilities,” he said.

“Many small communities do not have WACHS facilities or private testing clinics and therefore are required to travel, placing pressure on testing services in other towns and centres.

“The State Government must ensure PCR testing is available and accessible in all regional communities, and where this is not possible, RATs should be provided to households without restriction,” Mr Aldridge said.