Covid-19 results coming back quicker but still room for improvement, say GPs

Tests for Covid-19 are coming back more quickly but concerns remain, the president of the Irish College of General Practitioners, Dr Mary Favier, has said.
Covid-19 results coming back quicker but still room for improvement, say GPs

Tests for Covid-19 are coming back more quickly but concerns remain, the president of the Irish College of General Practitioners, Dr Mary Favier, has said.

File image of Covid-19 testing centre sign: Picture Colin Keegan, Collins Dublin
File image of Covid-19 testing centre sign: Picture Colin Keegan, Collins Dublin

A week ago it would have taken around seven days for the result of any test she requested to come back to her practice.

However, the results of two separate test she requested on Thursday were returned electronically on Sunday.

“So that's three days and that's a definite improvement,” Dr Favier said.

Chief executive of the HSE, Paul Reid, has said three to four days is the average turnaround time for tests. Dr Favier said some GPs have complained it is taking up to two weeks and sometime longer to get test results.

The ICGP has asked GPs to give examples of the problems they are experiencing in getting test results.

Dr Favier said the ICGP is working closely with the HSE to see where the problems are and they are addressing each individual case.

The HSE now has a helpline and an email service to make it easier for GPs to contact the health authority about tests.

Dr Favier said GPs usually request a test after being contacted by a patients with symptoms of Covid-19 and the process usually takes an hour or two.

It could take about a day before the patient is contacted by telephone and given a test time and there is very little delay in the testing.

“So we seem to have capacity there. It is then taking, three, four five days to get that test result back and another one to two days to get contact tracing done so there can be a week in that,” said Dr Favier.

“And there's evidence that the later it goes before you actually start to chase up those positive results, the less effective that is and the less valuable it is in terms of how useful you are to stop the spread of the disease and that's what needs to be addressed.”

Dr Favier was asked on RTÉ Radio if there is a danger that the delay in the testing turnaround could have an impact on the pace at which restrictions are lifted.

“Yes, I think that's the concern. We do need a robust testing and treating system so that we can ease the restrictions.”

File image of the Covid-19 testing centre at Lucan Sarsfields GAA Club. Picture: Colin Keegan, Collins Dublin
File image of the Covid-19 testing centre at Lucan Sarsfields GAA Club. Picture: Colin Keegan, Collins Dublin

There is a good baseline service but it is now going after those difficult cases to see why some are taking so long.

Dr Favier thinks it will be possible to reach the target of 15,000 tests per day next week if they are needed in the community.

At the weekly HSE briefing, Mr Reid, said there are plans to automate some of the test referral processes.

"We are still on schedule to have the capacity to deliver 100,000 tests from the week commencing May 18," he said.

Mr Reid also said the HSE has the "fullest support" from the Government in the provision of funding for testing and contact tracing.

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