GPs are to be paid for public and private Covid-19 patient assessments after agreement on a package of supports was reached between the IMO, HSE and Department of Health.
The injection of State funding will enable GPs to continue providing essential patient services following a dramatic decline in practice income due to the outbreak of Covid-19.
Significantly, the deal brokered on 16 March facilitates State payment to GPs for public and private Covid-19 telephone consultations and in-surgery respiratory assessments.
This means that private patients who have Covid-19 assessments will not have to pay their GP, which will come as a relief to many.
GPs will be paid €30 for each Covid-19 telephone triage undertaken. This is for “patients who are calling the surgery regarding Covid-19”, according to information circulated to IMO members by Dr Denis McCauley, Chair of the IMO GP committee, following the agreement.
“A claim is valid once a call has been completed whether or not a test is required,” added Dr McCauley.
A payment of €75 will be provided for Covid-19 respiratory assessments in cases where a GP feels a patient needs a face to face consultation to determine whether they require transfer to hospital.
Separately, non-Covid-19 supports for public patients only were also agreed. They include a €25 fee for “non-Covid tele consultations/triage” to allow GPs to continue caring for patients with other illnesses.
Furthermore, GPs who opt to hold patient clinics in their surgeries outside of normal office hours to facilitate patients with other ailments will be provided a €41.63 payment for each consultation.
IMO President Dr Pádraig McGarry, a GP based in Longford, said the agreement was essential in order to maintain GP services.
“What has been agreed are a package of supports to keep the front line open. We’re at the sharp end of this and we need to stay open.”
The package of supports commenced on Monday and will remain in place until clinical advice and care pathways change.
Dr McCauley advised members that in cases where a GP orders a test for Covid-19, the patient should be advised “that this may take some time and following the test the results may also take a few days”.
“Self-isolation is key,” he stressed.
Tramore GP Dr Austin Byrne said there had been a significant swell in calls since Friday and that it was “not unreasonable to expect a doubling or so by Thursday this week,” he added.
“Testing, where needed may be delayed by the surge. That’s okay, as long as we are isolating symptomatic patients we are doing the right thing. This isolation can save lives and slows disease rates massively. Social solidarity is more important than any healthcare measure in this crisis and public awareness and willingness to engage has been tremendous.”
“People are phoning as they realise the need to isolate for fever or chills or cough of recent onset. It sometimes feels like an over-reaction to people and they doubt what they should do. We know, though, that symptoms are often quite vague and mild, especially early on, so if in any doubt, self-isolate and call your GP.”