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Covid-19 community assessment hubs will stop system being 'overburdened'

The vice-president of the Irish College of General Practitioners stressed the importance of the hubs.

COVID-19 COMMUNITY ASSESSMENT hubs will keep patients from overburdening the hospital system while being treated by healthcare staff, the head of the GP association has said.

Community assessment hubs for Covid-19 will begin accepting their first patients this week.

The Health Service Executive said 12 to 15 of the assessment hubs will be in place by the end of the week.

The hubs provide facilities for people who need to self-isolate, those who are sick and people who are awaiting a test result.

The vice-president of the Irish College of General Practitioners (ICGP) Dr Nuala O’Connor said the hubs will keep patients from “overburdening the hospital system”.

“They are another layer of triage in the community.

“Somebody like myself who is a GP, I’m going to have a number of patients who have Covid-19 and are recuperating at home.

“If I feel they are becoming unwell, not so unwell that they need to go to hospital but if they are experiencing shortness of breath, then the community hub is another place where I can organise for a patient to be seen by health care professionals.”

O’Connor said in cases where a person cannot self isolate at home, they will be sent to one of the hubs instead of hospital.

“We are trying to make sure that as the figures increase that we can make sure not to overburden the emergency rooms and healthcare systems if at all possible.”

O’Connor urged people who have non Covid-19 illnesses to attend their GP.

She said: “We need the public to understand that we can see other patients with health problems, other than Covid-19, safely in our surgeries.”

They will be assessed by nurses and GPs at the community hub and a decision can then be made as to whether they need to go to hospital for oxygen and other supports or can continue to recover at home.

In some cases, recovery in a community isolation unit may be suitable for them, O’Connor said.

Meanwhile, a number of private-only consultants have expressed concern about the terms of the new temporary HSE locum contracts.

Last month, the government announced it had reached agreement with private hospitals across the State to use their facilities for the treatment of both Covid-19 and non Covid-19 patients.

Some 500 consultants working at these hospitals who currently treat private patients only are to receive temporary HSE locum contracts to cover their work during the health crisis.

In a statement, the Irish Hospital Consultants Association, the representative body of consultants working in private hospitals, said that under the proposed terms of these contracts, consulting rooms will be forced to shut to outpatients, for both current and future private outpatients.

Dr Oisin O’Connell, respiratory consultant, said: “The current contractual arrangements proposed by the HSE would result in the withdrawal of private hospital consultants’ ability to provide ongoing care to their existing patients.

“It would equally prevent private patients presenting with new medical issues from being treated.

“Without access to consulting rooms, private patients with urgent and ongoing medical needs will now present for care to emergency departments at acute public hospitals – all of which are already experiencing pressures in managing Covid-19.

“Private-only consultants believe the solution to this issue lies in a contractual arrangement which enables these consultants to meet their obligations under the proposed HSE temporary locum contracts but also permits them to continue to treat their private patients outside of their HSE contract hours.

“All hospital consultants, whether public or private, are eager and anxious to play their part in the delivery of frontline hospital care during this national emergency.”

Thirty-eight Covid-19 related deaths were confirmed over the weekend, bringing the total in the Republic to 158.

Some 691 new cases were confirmed on Saturday and Sunday, bringing the total number of cases to 4,994.

On Sunday night, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar confirmed he rejoined the Medical Register last month.

He has offered his services to the HSE for one session a week in areas that are within his scope of practice and will be carrying out phone assessments.

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