Where to get a PCR test – a guide for GPs

A young girl receiving a PCR COVID-19 test at a Victorian testing site.
  26 October 2022  Dr Jeannie Knapp, GP and Primary Health Care Improvement GP Adviser, NWMPHN   

As we prepare their COVID-19 pre-infection treatment plans, we tell patients who are eligible for oral antivirals to test often and test early.

This means getting an early PCR test if they have symptoms of infection – even if their RAT is negative. Oral antivirals need to be started within 5 days of infection. But where does one get a PCR done these days?

Criteria at state testing centres

As has been the case throughout the pandemic, the landscape regularly changes under our feet – sometimes overnight and without warning. Gone are the days of mass and easy-to-access COVID-19 PCR testing facilities on just about every corner.

Victorian Government testing centres are now offering PCR tests only to people considered at high risk of adverse outcomes from COVID-19. Others are given RATs. PCRs will be provided on requestbut they are not given priority processing.

Priority groups for PCR testing are people:

  • 65 years or older
  • under 2 years
  • who are Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander
  • with moderate to severe COVID-19 symptoms
  • who are pregnant or gave birth up to two weeks previously
  • who are not vaccinated or not up to date with vaccination
  • who have other health conditions or comorbidities putting them at higher risk of adverse outcomes, such immunocompromise, cancer, diabetes or obesity (the COVID Positive Pathways stratification criteria include a full list).

Testing at general practice respiratory clinics

General practice respiratory clinics (GPRCs) are for symptomatic patients only, but they have fewer restrictions on who can and can’t be tested, and testing is based on clinical need. RATs are often the first option. If a PCR is done, it is often with a full respiratory panel test.

Where to go for PCR testing

Visit betterhealth.vic.gov.au/coronavirus-covid-19-victoria to view the locations of all testing sites and GPRCs. Consider adding the link and location of the nearest testing site to your patient’s COVID-19 treatment plan.

Home testing service

The Victorian Government’s call-to-test service provides free in-home testing for people of all ages who are unable to attend a testing site due to:

  • injury, chronic health issue, or facility affecting mobility
  • moderate to severe physical or psychosocial disability
  • moderate to severe mental health or behavioural issues not otherwise classified as a psychosocial disability
  • being a carer for a person with moderate to severe disability.

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