Telephone triage at out-of-hours GP cooperative NEDOC jumped by 757 per cent in March due to the emergence of Covid-19, according to new data.
As the number of attendances at treatment centres dropped by 50 per cent in March compared to March 2019, a huge increase was recorded in calls to the service, which covers Meath, Monaghan, Cavan, and Louth.
In March 2019, there were 200 doctor triage calls. In contrast, 1,850 doctor triage calls were recorded in March 2020, according to NEDOC Operations Manager Ms Arlene Fitzsimons.
The increase in doctor triage was in response to new protocols and guidelines issued by the national public health emergency team and the Health Protection Surveillance Centre.
As fears surrounding spread of the virus became widespread, physical attendances at treatment centres decreased as more patients obtained healthcare advice and information over the phone.
While triage has increased and the co-op remains busy, attendances at treatment centres are quieter, Ms Fitzsimons said.
In April, visits at centres fell by 58 per cent compared to April 2019. However, telephone triage rose by 460 per cent.
Despite huge change, patients who need to attend in person are being seen, Ms Fitzsimons stressed.
In some cases, patients who did not want to enter treatment centres have been treated in their cars by doctors in personal protective equipment. A dedicated respiratory room for suspected Covid-19 cases was also established.
Rostering levels have been “scaled back” in response to the fall in attendances, Ms Fitzsimons said.
“Most patients didn’t want to come into treatment centres and were very happy to be triaged by a doctor over the phone,” she said.
“It is still busy; just different busy. I must praise all our GPs and staff for their phenomenal efforts during this crisis, especially during the early days when protocols were changing all the time,” added Ms Fitzsimons, speaking in late May.