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Update on patients awaiting Covid-19 test following criteria changes

By Mindo - 25th Mar 2020

All patients waiting for a Covid-19 test and who have been given an appointment date should attend their appointment, the ICGP has confirmed.  

An earlier statement issued by the ICGP after the testing algorithm for Covid-19 was altered late on 24 March noted that clarity on the matter was awaited. 

The testing criteria change was met with confusion and frustration by many GPs, who took to social media to complain about the manner in which the changes were announced. 

On 25 March, an ICGP spokesperson told the Medical Independent (MI) that such patients should attend their appointment. 

They reconfirmed that all patients who have been swabbed to date would have their samples processed and tested. 

All patients who have not yet been swabbed and who do not have an appointment for a test date will have their referral cancelled, they added. If such individuals are symptomatic however, they should self -isolate for 14 days. 

“It is up the patient to contact their GP once again to see if they meet the new criteria for testing,” the spokesperson advised. 

The statement also noted that: “Where a GP refers a patient who fits the new criteria whom they had already previously referred they will be entitled to claim the Covid-19 triage fee again regardless of whether they have already claimed the fee for this patient. 

The new criteria for testing stipulates that patients must firstly have a fever and another symptom of acute respiratory illness, such as a cough or shortness of breath; secondly they must also have been in contact with a confirmed or suspected Covid-19 case or fall into one of the at risk categories. 

The categories include symptomatic healthcare workers, smokers and individuals who have persons with diabetes, immunosuppressed, chronic lung disease, chronic heart disease, cerebrovascular disease, chronic renal disease and chronic liver disease. 

Symptomatic household contacts of at risk groups, staff or residents in long term care facilities, prison staff and inmates and pregnant women will also meet the criteria for testing.  

Speaking to MI, Monaghan GP Dr Illona Duffy said a “public campaign” educating the public on the testing criteria changes should have been rolled out in advance. 

She said her practice had received calls from patients angry that they would not now be tested, some of whom had already been waiting over a week. 

Waterford GP Dr Austin Byrnes said his practice had not been inundated with queries following changes to the testing criteria, but that a “modest amount”, or about 20 per cent of those who had been referred for a test but had not received an appointment, had made contact

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