GP calls for HSE to ramp up capacity for PCR testing amid increasing demand

According to the Dublin GP, it is getting increasingly difficult to get tests for the general public.
GP calls for HSE to ramp up capacity for PCR testing amid increasing demand

Vivienne Clarke

A Dublin GP has called on the HSE to look at ways of ramping up capacity for PCR testing and warned the public that antigen tests are not good at picking up positive cases.

Dr Knut Moe told RTÉ radio’s Today with Claire Byrne show that he understood this was a logistical issue for the HSE, but he said capacity would have to be ramped up.

“At the end of the day antigen tests are not as good at picking up cases. They may give a false negative which is a worry,” Dr Moe said.

According to the Dublin GP, it is getting increasingly difficult to get tests for the general public.

“There's certainly an upsurge in people with respiratory symptoms, we are prioritised as GPs in terms of patients that we refer in, they do get tests a little more quickly than if someone was referring themselves.

“It's clear that there are a lot of people needing tests, maybe at the start of the week you might get a test the same day, towards the end of the week it might be later that day or the next day even when referred by ourselves.”

Struggling

Dr Moe said that as GPs start referring patients for PCR tests appointments were going to fill up, “and they get allocated accordingly, it's clear that a lot of people are looking for tests and the system is coping”.

“But obviously it can't quite meet demand of all the number of tests being required on a same day basis,” Dr Moe added.

It was a logistical process, he explained.

“It comes back to patient symptoms, if they have symptoms the test doesn't really change their management - we're still asking them to isolate and restrict their movement so as not to pass on whatever they have, be it Covid or another seasonal illness they have until that illness is resolved,” Dr Moe said.

“A lot of the Covid cases are being compounded by all the other seasonal illness that are going around, we want to stop the spread of those as well because they mimic Covid.

“The test is one part of it, but it doesn’t change the management.

We're asking people to stay home and act as if they have Covid, no matter when the test is.

“People are obviously anxious, but the level of numbers we're seeing, any system would struggle with this, it's important to remember that antigen tests for those who are symptomatic are not the answer as a substitute to the PCR test.

“They should still get the PCR test when they can get it.”

Frustration

Monagahan GP Dr Illona Duffy said that the situation in her area was not too bad, patients might not get same day appointments, but they would get a test the following day.

“The problem is you cannot book in advance, just the same day or the following day, that's causing frustration, people are thinking I'll go with an antigen test and that is OK,” Dr Duffy said.

“The situation is being compounded with people who are vaccinated getting infected, with mild symptoms - they're doing the right thing, trying to get tested, but that’s five days that they cannot go into work (three days waiting for test and two for result), or keep a child at home. It is difficult, it’s going to be very hard to get people to agree to that.

“We have to see what HSE is going to do. How are they going to ramp up testing and accessibility?

“We need to move to open up walk in centres in areas that have high levels of Covid, and we need to ensure that people have access to testing and timely results,” she said.

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