A CORK GP has voiced serious concerns over the challenges which the sector will face in the weeks ahead, including in maintaining a service.
Dr Nick Flynn said telephone calls to his practice had increased dramatically in the past fortnight and said these were going to continue to rise as the outbreak intensifies.
“Telephone calls to my practice two weeks ago were 1,785 [per week]. Calls last week were 3,644, and an increase of over 1,850.
“I anticipate a further increase this week as the criteria for testing for COVID-19 have widened and the pathway now involves contacting your GP in the first instance,” he said.
Dr Flynn said this increased activity would be difficult to maintain. “We face challenges maintaining the service if staff have to start self-isolating.
“This type of increased activity is also difficult to sustain without additional funding from the HSE as even in a national emergency, staff need to be paid,” he added.
The Cork GP said, however, that fantastic work had been done in preparation for an increase in COVID-19 cases.
“Things that would have taken months to do are being done in days,” he said. Earlier this week, general practitioners began referring patients for COVID-19 testing through their IT systems. While there were some initial teething problems, Dr Flynn said these were rectified.
Dr Flynn stressed public help was vital to “keep the curve down” over the weeks ahead. He said patients contacting his practice were very well informed and it is now vital that GPs refer as many people so that they can be tested and isolated as early as possible. He pleaded with the public to follow the advice from the HSE and said people should only contact health care when really needed over the coming weeks. “We are still going to have people with heart attacks and people with appendicitis. I would say to people, before you call, maybe ask ‘can I do something else?’, He pointed out that if people have a query on COVID-19, they could be directed to the HSE website.