The ICGP has said it welcomes a proposed change in the case definition for Covid-19 but has highlighted the extra demands this will place on GPs. The College said the HSE must ensure there is “sufficient capacity” to accommodate this change.
Dr Mary Favier, President of the ICGP, said: “The College supports the rationale behind ramping up the number of tests per week towards 100,000 in order to determine the true prevalence of Covid-19 in the community, identify outbreaks and allow the easing of some of the restrictions on the population, whilst maintaining an accurate and up-to-date knowledge of the number of new cases occurring each day in the country.”
“However, the HSE must ensure the capacity is there within the system to accommodate and manage this significant ramping up in the number of tests performed each week. If the capacity is not there then unacceptable waiting times for testing and return of test results builds up and we end up not being able to deliver the amount of testing that is required.”
Dr Favier further added: “As we now enter a new phase in attempting to manage and maintain the spread of Covid-19, the most critical step in the process must be the ramping up of contact tracing. Adequate contact tracing teams and contact tracing systems, appropriately staffed and resourced, need to be in place in order to follow up the new Covid cases unearthed by testing.
“This contact tracing needs to be timely and appropriately organised in order to deal with the anticipated rise in new cases revealed by increased testing. If a test result is positive, Public Health must ensure they have the resources to quickly trace that person’s contacts to ensure we are then managing the ongoing spread of the disease.
“Without this resource being widely and consistently available, we will see a further inevitable surge in infection rates. Such a surge will place significant additional pressures on general practice and the wider healthcare services.”
The College has also confirmed that it will be advising its members of the changes to the testing definition once it knows the new criteria. This will also include the provision of education, when the date has been confirmed for implementation to the College by the HSE and HPSC.