COVID-19 lab incorrectly told patients they tested negative

A COVID-19 testing lab in Australia has apologized after it mistakenly informed more than 400 patients that they tested negative for the virus when they were positive.

St. Vincent’s Hospital in Sydney on Sunday said the false notification was sent through its pathology service, SydPath, to patients who had taken the test on Dec. 23 and 24.

“SydPath last night incorrectly messaged more than 400 people, advising them they had tested negative to COVID,” the hospital said. “These people had tested positive to COVID.”

The hospital said the incident was under investigation.

“An emergency response team is now investigating the cause of this mistake, which is believed to be human error,” the statement said. “We sincerely apologized to those impacted.”

SydPath medical director Anthony Dodds said the lab had been working on a “very large volume of tests” in the days leading up to the false notification.

More than 400 people who has tested negative for COVID-19 were actually positive for the virus.
Rick Rycroft/AP

“As soon as we became aware of this issue this morning, SydPath immediately commenced the process to contact these impacted individuals,” Dodds said in a statement, Australian outlet 9News reported.

A 34-year-old man who was among those falsely notified said he been skeptical of the results. Despite being told by a doctor to trust the results, he went for a rapid COVID-19 test, which ended up being positive for the virus.

“I said, ‘I also trust myself, I’m unwell because every symptom I’ve had is COVID … the PCR test must be wrong,’” the man told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

People queuing at the COVID-19 Testing site.
People stand in line to be tested for the COVID-19 virus.
Kelly Barnes/Getty Images

He said he was frustrated by how long it took the center to notify him of the false results.

“I think it was quite frustrating, in the sense that one, it took 85 hours firstly to get the negative test result,” he said.