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 HSE 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.”
Dr O’Connor said in cases where a person can not 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.”
Dr 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, Dr O’Connor said.
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.