23rd Jun 2020 @ 9:08 am

Yesterday, Gazette editor Shaun Addison took a Covid-19 test at the Dr José Molina Orosa Hospital without having to get out of his car.

I’ve been awaiting a minor operation for a few months, but the coronavirus crisis put a temporary stop to all non-essential surgery on the island. Normal service was resumed in June, but the backlog at the hospital has been mentioned in the press, so I wasn’t expecting to be contacted so soon.

Nevertheless, I received a call on Friday morning telling me to prepare for the operation on Wednesday the 24th, and informing me that health protocols now mean that I’d have to take a Covid-19 test before entering the operating theatre.

So on Monday, I jumped into my car, put on my mask as they’d requested, and drove up to Consultas Externas, the outpatients’ department located on C/Sabin Berthelot at at the back of the hospital building.  The entrance here is on two levels, with the lower levels normally reserved for ambulances and taxis which are delivering patients. There are still two prominent No Entry signs on the left side of the lower entrance, but a closer look also reveals a sign saying “Recogida de Muestras” (sample collection) – COVID 19” above a blue arrow.

So I turned in, pulled up outside the doors, put the car in neutral and the hand-brake on and opened my window before a medic in full protective gear, including a surgical mask and a plastic anti-spatter mask, came out to check my name on the list. It’s a good idea to have your health card ready at this point, especially if your name doesn’t follow Spanish rules of pronunciation.

Surgeons need to know the risk of operating on patients at the time of the operation, which meant I was getting a PCR test to detect if I actually have the virus now, rather than an antibody test on a blood sample which would establish whether I’d had it in the past. PCR tests are conducted on mucus samples collected from a swab, which was what the medic was holding in his hand when he returned to the car window.

He passed me a tissue and asked me to lower my mask and blow my nose. Then he inserted a separate swab up each nostril. It’s not a painful process, but it is fairly uncomfortable, as the swab probes places where I didn’t know I had places.

And that was it. The whole thing had taken less than five minutes. I thanked the medic, wished him a “buen dia”, and drove away. If I test positive, I’ll be contacted. If not, I can assume the result was negative and head in for my operation tomorrow.