Formal discussions between the IMO and the Department of Health have been proposed regarding the enhancement of medical care for nursing home residents, IMO President Dr Pádraig McGarry has confirmed.
Speaking to the Medical Independent, Dr McGarry said that the prospect of talks had been “mooted” by the Department but that, as yet, formal talks had not taken place.
Plans are underway to enhance the role of GPs in nursing homes in response to concerns raised about the medical care of residents following the emergence of Covid-19.
The Covid-19 Nursing Homes Expert Panel Examination of Measures to 2021 report, published in August, sets out plans to establish community support teams (CSTs) in each HSE CHO area to support long term residential care centres.
The report outlines that: “They [CSTs] will play a critical role in providing more robust governance and leadership for any future Covid-19 surge and ensure more appropriate integrated overall care and oversight to the frail older nursing home residents not just in this time of Covid-19 but beyond this pandemic.”
Before the end of November the report commits to assigning a GP as a “key member” of each CST, and in the interim each Covid-19 response team.
Furthermore, within 18 months the report pledges to appoint GP leads in all nursing homes, with sessional commitments and remuneration set out in a contract.
“A national framework describing the role and responsibilities of the GP lead, including the elements outlined above, should be developed, so that providers can operate within a consistent and clear set of requirements,” the report recommended.
GP manpower challenges were mentioned in the report and it was stated that the recruitment of more GPs must be “planned and pursued as a matter of urgency”.
Dublin GP Dr Brenda O’Shea has said that if “there had been more GP input into nursing homes the first surge would not have been as “traumatising”.
A Department of Health spokeswoman said: “The Department and the HSE have had an initial discussion in relation to the steps necessary to commence implementation of these recommendations – as this is at an early stage, there are no plans to commence talks with the IMO at present”.
Meanwhile, Dr McGarry confirmed that there has been no contact between the IMO and the Department of Health on the introduction of free GP care to children under 12 years of age.
“There has been no contact and no discussions. How this measure could be expanded during a pandemic is difficult to imagine; GPs are already extremely busy.”