CALGARY -- Delays in blood work and other medical testing due to the pandemic still exist in Alberta, but the situation is improving.

Many patients have had long waits to get lab work done since several medical labs re-opened after the lockdown in mid-June but have struggled to meet the demand from the backlog.

In August, Alberta Health Services said its collection sites and labs were operating at 70 per cent of pre-pandemic capacity and as of October 5 they are up to 80 per cent. AHS said that is expected to improve in Calgary when the Patient Service Centre downtown in Gulf Canada Square re-opens for appointment-only service starting Oct. 13.

AHS recommends online booking of lab work whenever possible. However, the first available appointments in Calgary are several weeks away so some people are choosing other options.

“I chose walk-in because when I checked online the wait time is too long,” said Ronel Desales who attended the Riverbend location.

“If you want an appointment it’s two or three weeks,’ said Dianne Patzack who attended the same location.

Both said they waited for more than an hour to have their lab tests done but for their circumstances it beat the alternative of waiting for a scheduled appointment.

Patzack requires blood work several times each year.

“It’s way busier now, I’ve never seen it like this before,” she said.

Due to physical distancing requirements, people should still expect line-ups out the door when trying to get same-day service at the few labs offering walk-ins.

AHS said it is allowing people some flexibility once they’ve secured their time slot. Walk-in patients can choose to be notified by cell phone if the prefer to wait somewhere nearby such as a vehicle.

Some people still worry about anyone lined up out in the elements.

“I don’t know what it’s like when it gets cold,” said Patzack.

“I saw a lady come up in a taxi so what do those people do when they get dropped off?”

AHS says it is preparing for cooler weather by adding more indoor waiting areas at some sites.

As well, the province no longer recommends asymptomatic people get tested as a way to lighten the load and beat the backlog.