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Increased testing must not lead to 'unacceptable' waiting times, warn GPs

The Irish College of General Practioners broadly welcomed plans to increase testing.

A test centre at Sir John Rogerson’s Quay in Dublin.
A test centre at Sir John Rogerson’s Quay in Dublin.
Image: RollingNews.ie

THE HSE NEEDS to ensure that there is sufficient capacity to support an increase in Covid-19 testing, the Irish College of General Practitioners has warned. 

In a statement this evening, the President of the Irish College of General Practitioners, Dr Mary Favier, said that her organisation “welcomed” the proposed change to the case definition for coronavirus testing. 

However, she warned that if the system is not able to manage the increased testing it could lead to “unacceptable waiting times”. 

“The HSE must ensure the capacity is there within the system to accommodate and manage this significant ramping up in the number of tests performed each week,” Favier said. 

“If the capacity is not there then unacceptable waiting times for testing and return of test results builds up and we end up not being able to deliver the amount of testing that is required,” she added. 

Earlier today, the HSE insisted that it is confident Covid-19 testing capacity will reach 100,000 tests per week, if needed, by the third week in May. 

A roadmap to increase testing capacity has been devised by the National Public Health Emergency Team and will go before Cabinet for approval next week.

Testing is currently being carried out at 47 centres around the country and processing is taking place at 27 labs, with some tests also going to Germany for processing. 

With the expectation that the Covid-19 virus will be with us for a significant period of time, CEO of the HSE Paul Reid said a long-term strategy for testing is essential to support the healthcare system. 

“The model we have put in place, as described a few times, has been a type of war zone model. We put all the elements together, we’re going to maximise efficiency and we’re going to increase it’s volume,” he said. 

Earlier this week, NPHET cautioned that a testing capacity of 100,000 per week may not be possible, while health minister Simon Harris suggested that there may not be a need for upwards of 10,000 tests to be carried out daily. 

Favier also said that the “most critical step” should be the ramping up of contact tracing. 

“This contact tracing needs to be timely and appropriately organised in order to deal with the anticipated rise in new cases revealed by increased testing,” she said. 

“Without this resource being widely and consistently available, we will see a further inevitable surge in infection rates. Such a surge will place significant additional pressures on General Practice and the wider healthcare services,” she added.

With reporting from Conor McCrave

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