GPs have warned about patients tested for the coronavirus facing “unacceptable waiting times” for if the HSE is not ready to cope with plans to ramp up testing.
“The Irish College of General Practitioners (ICGP) said it welcomed the proposed change in the case definition for testing for COVID-19 ,while also acknowledging that any widening of the testing criteria will create extra demands and pressure on the GP community.”
ICGP President Dr Mary Favier said: “The College supports the rationale behind ramping up the number of tests per week towards 100,000 in order to determine the true prevalence of COVID 19 in the community, identify outbreaks and allow the easing of some of the restrictions on the population, whilst maintaining an accurate and up-to-date knowledge of the number of new cases occurring each day in the country.”
“However, the HSE must ensure the capacity is there within the system to accommodate and manage this significant ramping up in the number of tests performed each week.
“ If the capacity is not there then unacceptable waiting times for testing and return of test results builds up and we end up not being able to deliver the amount of testing that is required.”
Dr Favier cautioned:“As we now enter a new phase in attempting to manage and maintain the spread of COVID-19, the most critical step in the process must be the ramping up of “contact tracing”.
“Adequate contact tracing teams and contact tracing systems, appropriately staffed and resourced, need to be in place in order to follow up the new COVID cases unearthed by testing.
“This contact tracing needs to be timely and appropriately organised in order to deal with the anticipated rise in new cases revealed by increased testing.
“If a test result is positive, Public Health must ensure they have the resources to quickly trace that person’s contacts to ensure we are then managing the ongoing spread of the disease.
“Without this resource being widely and consistently available, we will see a further inevitable surge in infection rates. Such a surge will place significant additional pressures on General Practice and the wider healthcare services.”