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GP OOH Association seeks extension to Covid-19 deal

The National Association of GP Co-ops has written to the HSE seeking an extension to the Covid-19 deal agreed in March.

The arrangement saw the HSE agree to pay out of hours GP cooperatives 75 per cent of a co-op’s last year’s income, in place of special type consultation payments (STCs).

The agreement ensured that out-of-hours GP services, which have experienced a huge reduction in footfall following the pandemic, continued to operate.

According to the Chairperson of the National Association of GP Co-ops, Mayo GP Dr Ken Egan, the deal expires on 31 May.

“We have formally applied to the HSE for an extension to the agreement made in March and I would be hoping to hear from them soon,” Dr Egan told the Medical Independent (MI).

“The out-of-hours services have been very quiet but they are coming back up a little bit now and are getting busier.”

Before the agreement was struck, several GPs raised concern that the service was on the brink of collapse. 

Services sought HSE payment for telephone triage, as the nature of patient consultations changed due to Covid-19, but the HSE initially refused to pay doctors for this type of work.

Meanwhile, GPs are seeing patients with atypical Covid-19 symptoms whom they would like to refer for testing but who do not meet current testing criteria.

According to Cork GP Dr Nuala O’Connor, ICGP GP Lead Advisor Antibiotic Resistance and ICGP GP Lead, HSE antimicrobial resistance and infection control team, there is a desire to capture as many cases as possible, but no decision has been taken yet on amending testing criteria.

Dublin GP Dr Ray Walley told MI the testing algorithm may be adapted to include the symptom of diarrhoea, as it has frequently emerged as a symptom among nursing home patients with Covid-19.

Furthermore, initial studies have shown that gastrointestinal symptoms can occur in Covid-19 positive patients, including nausea and cramps.

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