The delays at various stages of testing for the coronavirus are causing concern. How long can a patient referred by their GP for a test expect to wait?
GPs are reporting five to 10 days. A patient who thinks they might be infected must first ring the GP who asks them a series of questions about symptoms like cough, fever or trouble breathing.
If they decide the patient needs a test, they recommend them for a swab and send the request off electronically.
Is it the case that the problem seems to be the length of time it takes for the patient to get an appointment for the swab test?
The GP requests the appointment, but it is the HSE which then contacts the patient by phone. Many patients who rang GPs on Monday had still not received an appointment yesterday.
They are waiting to be told what testing centre they go to in order to provide a swab.
Is it correct that once a GP recommends the test for a patient they are a suspect case and must self-isolate?
They must self-isolate and need to guard against infecting others.
The fear is that while people are waiting for several days they may not be following the rules and infect others.
When they get an appointment and give a swab in one of the centres, they must wait up to 48 hours for lab analysis.
What are GPs saying about this?
Dr Padraig McGarry, president of the Irish Medical Organisation and a GP in Longford, said yesterday he had still not received results for patients he referred for testing on Monday.
The GP is not told of the appointment date for the patient's swab test. This is given to the patient. The GP should receive the test result after it has been analysed by a lab, he explained.
He said if a patient is positive they may need to go to hospital but most stay in their home and self-isolate. Timeframes appear to be different for the test around the country.
What advice does he have for people waiting for the test?
He emphasised the need to self-isolate and take whatever medical advice the doctor has given to the patient.
Are healthcare staff who want a test affected?
Several have reported delays and this is stopping them going back to vital work.
The WHO said "test, test, test", so why is there a wait?
Criteria for testing widened recently to include people with high temperature, cough, aches and pains, and other potential symptoms.
From Monday, GPs have been able to directly refer the patient for the test. GPs have been flooded with patients and this has created bottlenecks.
Is it that there are not enough testing centres?
The HSE has now expanded it to 29 centres. They are located in different facilities, including Croke Park which operates drive-through testing for patients referred by their GP.
They have had to be staffed and equipped.
Is there a shortage of swab kits?
The HSE was running low on them earlier this week and received a consignment of 39,000 on Thursday.
But it promises to ramp up testing to 15,000 a day. The HSE said it has a contract for continuity of supply.
Are there enough labs to analyse the tests?
Originally it was only the UCD laboratory doing the work, but it has now been expanded to nine hospital labs across the country.
In its defence, the HSE has had to put the arrangements in place very quickly and at short notice.
The hope is that the waiting times will improve.
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