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GPs to start receiving PPE items

The ICGP has announced that the HSE will begin delivering essential personal protective equipment (PPE) items to GP practices shortly. 

In a communication to members on 12 March, the ICGP announced that the preliminary delivery of packs would commence on Friday 13 March, with further supplies to be delivered “over the coming weeks”. 

Each pack will contain gels, masks, gowns and gloves, the letter confirmed. 

“More supplies have been secured and will be made available to GPs over the coming weeks. However, supplies are challenging at the moment and we hope that the above initial supply will go some way towards assisting GPs.”

The development follows a meeting of the Covid-19 GP Communications Subgroup and HSE leadership on 11 March, where GP concerns were raised. 

Among the issues highlighted was a growing concern about the “capacity and ability for GP to order tests, protocols for management of our patients, and occupational health advice for GP”. 

Further information regarding mechanisms to allow GPs to order tests directly is expected to be revealed on the evening of 12 March, when changes in testing arrangements are outlined. 

The move comes following a meeting between IMO and Department of Health officials on 11 March to discuss supports for general practice in relation to the pandemic.

In a communication to members following the meeting, Chair of the IMO GP Committee Dr Denis McCauley said: “The meeting today was very positive and the Department and the HSE acknowledge the additional burdens on general practice at this time”.

“We hope to be in a position in the coming days to reach agreement on a package of supports and will update members as soon as possible.

He added that the IMO GP Committee “commended the efforts of our public health specialists at this time”. 

The development will come as a huge relief to GPs, many of whom in recent days have called for a special type consultation (STC) code for Covid-19 work and a separate code for any telephone or video consultations undertaken. 

Tramore GP and member of the IMO GP Committee Dr Austin Byrne told the paper that he is satisfied more resources would be supplied to practices shortly. 

“I am confident that more PPE [personal protective equipment] will issue to practices and be allocated in a fair and proportionate manner to GPs and that exceptional measure to procure additional supplies are being explored,” he remarked. 

So far none of the extra work carried out by practices in helping to limit the spread of Covid-19 has been resourced.

GPs have been forced to dramatically change work practices in wake of the crisis, with more phone and video consultations now occurring. 

“Walk-ins” have been stopped and all patients are asked to attend surgeries only if they have an appointment. Furthermore, all appointments are being triaged. 

Extensive hygiene and decontamination work is being undertaken in practices several times a day and GPs handling patients with any respiratory symptoms are in most cases wearing full-body protective equipment. 

This has dramatically increased workload for practices and has also resulted in a decline in GP income. 

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