Irish College of General Practitioners urges public to stay at home to help protect GPs, practice teams and patients who need face-to-face consultations and phone GPs for advice if they have COVID-19 symptoms.
Many GP practices understaffed due to high level of community transmission with huge increase in COVID-19 related calls.
Essential services including childhood vaccinations and assessing medically unwell patients will be maintained despite high level of COVID-19 in community.
The ICGP has advised its members to reduce face-to-face contact with the public to protect GPs, staff and those patients who require consultations in person, while the current COVID-19 surge continues.
GPs all over the country have experienced an unprecedented level of calls and consultations from the public due to the huge surge in COVID-19 cases in the community in the past few days.
Over the weekend, for example, some Out-of-Hours services were fielding over 150 calls per hour with extra doctors and administrative staff on duty to help deal with the demand from people with COVID-19 symptoms.
Many GP surgeries have reduced staffing levels due to COVID-19 infections or staff being close contacts, at the same time as the level of demand grows.
Over 80% of all COVID-19 cases are dealt with by GPs in the community.
The ICGP’s COVID-19 Clinical Lead Dr Nuala O’Connor said:
GPs are working in unprecedented conditions with this new surge in cases. Face-to-face consultations will continue but we are using telephone and video consultations where it is possible to deliver safe care.
We are advising GPs to limit foot-fall to the practice while maintaining essential services such as childhood vaccinations and assessing medically unwell patients who need a face-to-face assessment.
In the first lockdown we know a lot of people with non-COVID-19 medical conditions felt they should not contact their GP. We wish to reiterate that our surgeries are open but working behind closed doors. People must phone their GPs first for an assessment and if a doctor feels they need to see you, we recommend you do come in. We do not want to miss possible strokes, heart conditions or possible cancers or other non-COVID-19 medical conditions. GPs are here to help with mental health conditions also.
The ICGP has advised GPs that the College is engaging with the HSE in relation to COVID-19 vaccinations for GPs and practice staff.
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