Sam Pilbrow has been denied a coronavirus test despite exhibiting symptoms. Photo: AP Photo/George Calin
Sam Pilbrow has been denied a coronavirus test despite exhibiting symptoms. Photo: AP Photo/George Calin

‘Not good enough’: Mum refused test despite symptoms

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A SUNSHINE Coast business owner who came into contact with overseas travellers says she has been refused to be tested for coronavirus despite displaying multiple symptoms common with the disease.

Sam Pilbrow operates a hair salon out of her Sippy Downs home and said she began to feel notably ill almost two weeks ago.

After first being diagnosed with a chest infection and then pneumonia by her GP, Mrs Pilbrow was prescribed antibiotics as treatment.

Yet the mum-of-two said her symptoms only worsened as time went on.

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"I've been in bed for 11 days," she said. "I've gotten progressively worse and none of the medication has made any difference at all.

"I've had chest infections in the past, I've had pneumonia in the past. I know what it's like.

"But I've never, ever had a chest infection like this, that has not resulted in me improving with antibiotics."

Sam Pilbrow.
Sam Pilbrow.

Mrs Pilbrow then began to fear she had come into contact with a person carrying coronavirus, particularly due to the close proximity she has with clients in her profession.

"I've had lots of clients who had recently come home from overseas and on cruises," she said.

"I had a lady in my chair that recently travelled and she said she had a dry cough that she couldn't get rid of for two weeks. So who knows?"

Although Mrs Pilbrow entered the Sunshine Coast University Hospital expecting to be tested for COVID-19, she said the medical staff had denied her request.

"I was refused a test of any kind," she said.

"The doctors and nurses were also frustrated, but because I haven't travelled or been in any known contact with a case, I don't qualify for any kind of testing."

With severe physical symptoms, Mrs Pilbrow said she was "incredibly frustrated" by the system that allowed her to walk free without a test.

"I can't quite understand that they're saying because I haven't travelled, I can't get tested, but I have every other symptom. It makes no sense to me," she said.

"I have horrendous headaches, I couldn't get out of bed, complete and utter exhaustion … I've got a dry throat. It's not like anything I've ever had before.

Sam Pilbrow, her husband Nigel and kids Keane and Jax.
Sam Pilbrow, her husband Nigel and kids Keane and Jax.

"I feel like my chest constantly has pressure on it, I have difficulty breathing … my airflow is definitely restricted.

"It ticks everything other than I haven't travelled and I haven't been in known contact, but how would I know?

"It's just not good enough."

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A Queensland Health spokesperson said the department was well-prepared for all COVID-19 scenarios, and were committed to keeping residents safe and healthy across the state.

"Currently, testing for novel coronavirus (COVID-19) is only available for people who are feeling unwell and have travelled to overseas in the past 14 days or have had contact with a confirmed case of novel coronavirus (COVID-19)," they said.

"Queensland Health's testing criteria, consistent with that outlined by the Federal Government, is designed to ensure all possible cases of COVID-19 are detected quickly and efficiently.

"If you are unwell and haven't been overseas or been in contact with a confirmed case, you may not be tested for novel coronavirus (COVID-19)."

Sam Pilbrow.
Sam Pilbrow.

The spokesperson said the department was ensuring testing wasn't conducted on patients who likely had other viruses, such as the flu or a common cold.

"Widespread public screening is not necessary," they said.

"At this point in Queensland, the majority of cases are still from people who have travelled overseas, or have had direct contact with a confirmed case in someone that has travelled overseas.

"We want to reassure the community, we are yet to see sustained community transmission in our state."

As Mrs Pilbrow waits for her symptoms to lessen, she said she was currently in self-isolation despite no directive from the hospital to do so.

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"I'm baffled as to, if I do potentially have this, why I haven't even been advised to self-isolate," she said.

"I've made that decision myself because I feel that if I do have anything, I don't want to be giving it to my clients or anyone else.

"I've basically been told to carry on as normal which I find completely and utterly baffling."

Due to this, Mrs Pilbrow has been forced to close her home salon, Hair by Sam Pilbrow, and said she had entered a second week without any income.

"Unfortunately, for self-employed hairdressers, because the government are saying that we are still able to work, you can imagine the anxiety that we're feeling," she said.

Sam Pilbrow, her husband Nigel and kids Keane and Jax.
Sam Pilbrow, her husband Nigel and kids Keane and Jax.

"I am not entitled to any money whatsoever because my husband is still currently in a job, however, we'll see how long that lasts.

"I only opened my business last May so I've worked incredibly hard to build it, and who knows if I'll have anything left of it?"

With children at home and multiple bills to pay, Mrs Pilbrow said she, like many other hairdressers, feared where her next pay cheque would come from.

"Hairdressers are in an impossible situation because they're incredibly anxious trying to do what they think is the right thing," she said.

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"They're maintaining the highest hygiene standards that they can, but they're also saying that that isn't without risk.

"We are unable to maintain social distance. It's physically impossible.

"As much as we want to avoid anything, it's at the point where people are saying 'I can't afford to feed my children, I can't afford to live, I have no choice but to take that risk'.

"There's just not enough being done. It doesn't seem fair."



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