The HSE’s new Covid-19 assessment hubs will help GPs deal with people’s “normal” health issues, according to the Irish College of General Practitioners.
The ICGP’s vice president Dr Nuala O’Connor said she hopes this will encourage more people to come forward with non-Covid-19 health issues.
She has urged them to come forward and not to be “scared” of the public hospital or GP surgery system just because of the virus.
“Cork University Hospital is the main Covid-19 hospital in Cork but there are other hospitals around the city that are doing cancer and other operations,” she said.
“It’s my understanding that this is what’s been happening around the country.
She said the concern is that people with acute medical problems are not presenting to hospitals.
“People are worried," she said.
"Hospitals say, for example, they are not seeing the number of new diabetics they would normally see.
“So, people need to realise that if they are feeling unwell, if they’re worried about the symptoms, they need to contact their GP who can go through things with them over the phone.
“We can then try to decide if a person needs to be seen in person, or is it something we can manage over the phone.”
She described the new hubs as being another “layer of triage, but in the community”.
“At the moment as a GP, if I have somebody with Covid-19 and they are self isolating at home and they start to become very unwell and they contact me, we can assess a certain amount over the telephone,” she said.
“Sometimes it is very obvious that a patient needs to go to hospital and we can organise that. But sometimes they need a physical examination.
“And as the numbers grow, the assessment hub will be a place where we will be able to assess patients with Covid-19.
“These HSE-run units will be manned by a team of healthcare workers, with nurses and GPs.
"They will be able to have a clinical assessment done, and maybe receive the OK to go home or maybe they will need to go on to hospital.
“Or maybe if it isn’t appropriate for them to return home, and they don’t need to go to hospital, they might be better off in a community isolation unit.”
The latest restrictions in operation since Friday, March 27 mandate that everyone should stay at home, only leaving to: