A CORK GP has been referring 20 patients a day for Covid-19 testing in recent weeks, highlighting concerns that general practice capacity for normal issues will continue to be impacted by the pandemic in the winter months ahead.
Dr Mike Thompson, a family doctor in East Cork, said GPs are busy dealing with a backlog of issues that may have gone untreated during the height of the pandemic, while they are also handling increased Covid-19 test referrals as more people attend for testing.
He said that GP capacity needs to be reserved for chronic disease management, flu vaccine administration, and other routine issues as health services brace for a busy winter period. A major increase in Covid-19 cases would impact that capacity, Dr Thompson warned.
“I didn’t have a single referral for Covid for around three months between May and early July, but now I’m doing 20 referrals a day,” he told The Echo. “I also had a small amount of positive cases in the past few weeks.
“A lot of it is because more people are coming for testing out of fear of this virus, and I’m delighted that people are presenting for testing. Cork has been performing okay in terms of Covid but we are seeing numbers rise across the country.
“It may be asymptomatic at the moment but that’s only fine until it reaches the elderly or vulnerable — that’s when it becomes a major issue.”
Dr Thompson said Covid-19 has already impacted health services which are now dealing with a backlog of cases, many unrelated to the coronavirus.
“We could have a normal winter scenario on the way which is bad enough — but now this year we have the backlog from Covid, which is more likely to be bigger in hospitals than in general practice,” he said. “We have a new chronic disease management system which is really important to keep on top of, because they’re the conditions that can be exacerbated because of Covid — the diabetes, heart issues, COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) — we need to ensure these people are seen.
“There is also a massive flu vaccine campaign that will see a cohort of around two million people qualify for the vaccine, and which every doctor and pharmacist needs to get involved in.
“We need to have capacity for that — but if we get a second wave or surges of Covid, or mini lockdowns, it will affect that capacity.”