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CMO says it's 'perfectly appropriate' for GPs to conduct nursing home consultations over phone

Private nursing homes have reported they are struggling to get on-site visits from GPs.

Image: Shutterstock/Dmytro Zinkevych

THE CHIEF MEDICAL Officer has said he is concerned to hear that GPs are being portrayed as “neglectful” because they have decided to conduct consultations with nursing home patients remotely. Dr Tony Holohan this evening said this approach is “perfectly appropriate care”.

The Irish Independent this morning reported that private nursing homes were struggling to get on-site visits from GPs due to concerns over the spread of Covid-19 and in many cases assessment were being carried out over the phone or on a video call.

At this evening’s Department of Health briefing, Holohan said a phonecall or video call with a patient that a GP knows well is “not only good medical care by those GPs but it’s a safe way to deliver that medical care for both patients and GPs”.

He said it would put both the patient and the healthcare worker at risk of infection if they were to see a patient in a clinical environment unnecessarily.

“If that consultation is with a patient in an area, or a nursing home for example, where there isn’t infection the risk is that a healthcare worker could introduce infection.”

He said a remote consultation, for those reasons, is “perfectly appropriate care”.

“It has been characterised by some people as GPs refusing to engage and to look after their patients, which is a serious accusation to make in respect of any medical practitioner,” he said.

Dr Holohan said many clinicians in hospitals are also providing a “very significant component of their care” over phone calls or video calls that would usually be done face-to-face.

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He said GPs on the frontline had played a “huge role” in helping officials to respond to the outbreak in the community.

In a statement earlier today, Dr Denis McCauly of the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO), said GPs across the country are working hard to support vulnerable patients in nursing homes through both personal visits and phone based consultations.

“Phone based consultations must be seen in the context of nursing homes which have nurses working on site and follow the advice of the relevant public health authorities.”

“It is important to note that on site consultations can bring an infection risk for staff and patients within the nursing home and it is important that such consultations are only carried out where necessary,” he added.

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