Contact tracing failing in some cases due to 'incorrect phone numbers' - HSE

The HSE has said that the reason contact tracing has not been immediately initiated on all persons testing positive for Covid-19 is due to the fact that the phone numbers of those being tested “may be incorrect”.
Contact tracing failing in some cases due to 'incorrect phone numbers' - HSE
Irish army cadets conducting contact tracing. Photo:Gareth Chaney/Collins

The HSE has said that the reason contact tracing has not been immediately initiated on all persons testing positive for Covid-19 is due to the fact that the phone numbers of those being tested “may be incorrect”.

A trend has emerged in recent weeks of general practitioners receiving the positive result of a patient and informing them of that fact, only to discover the person was previously unaware of their positive status.

While distressing for patients, the trend has more importantly revealed that contact tracing is not being immediately commenced in all cases of positive results. Tests are conducted by the public health system, which is also charged with informing people in the first instance if they have tested positive.

GPs subsequently receive the same results from the testing centres or hospitals in which the tests were conducted in the same manner as they would routine blood tests.

“Not all the cases that arrive from the laboratory have a contact number, and some of the numbers may be incorrect,” a HSE spokesperson told the Irish Examiner.

They said that in such situations “it is very difficult to make contact with the person”.

A GP may be notified of a result and have contacted the person before the contact tracing process can commence, they said, as the laboratory notification may be received in the GP practice before it is uploaded on the contact tracing system.

“In addition the contact tracing centres will ring the number on five occasions, over the space of a number of hours. If they fail to make contact with the person, they will register the call as unresolved,” the spokesperson said.

“The HSE is implementing a process to address these unresolved cases,” they added.

Currently there are in the region of 1,600 people trained to work at nine contact tracing centres across the country.

“It isn’t good that we appear to be running a more efficient service than the public health system which is allegedly running the show,” one GP said of the situation. “It suggests that there is a problem somewhere in the chain, because it isn’t like we’re getting results quickly.”

Part of the problem appears to stem from the ramping up in testing seen over the past three weeks, which saw a change made to the system of notifications for those suspected of having the disease, with GPs then being informed of their patients’ status for negative results.

However, after that change was made GPs began to receive notifications of positive results also, in contradiction of official protocol.

Nuala O’Connor, the Irish College of General Practitioners’ (ICGP) lead adviser on the virus, said she is “aware” of the situation.

She said she had been advised that “huge efforts” are being put in place to speed up the process of contact tracing for positive cases of Covid-19.

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