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Health Minister welcomes vital role of Covid Centres

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Health Minister Robin Swann visiting the covid-19 centre at Altnagelvin Hospital today 25/03/20 Photo by Simon Graham Photography

The Health Minister Robin Swann says Northern Ireland’s Primary Care Covid Centres are playing a vital role in the fight against Covid-19.

The 10 centres were rapidly established in each Trust area to help manage the increase in Coronavirus cases in the community by allowing patients to be assessed and treated by a GP, but separately from patients who do not have Covid symptoms, thus reducing the risk of infection.

The latest figures show that, during the peak of the pandemic, the GP-led Covid Centres were dealing with just under 1,000 patients a week.

The Health Minister said: “Covid Centres are providing a vital part of the primary care response to the pandemic, enabling safe assessment of patients with symptoms of Covid-19, some of whom are struggling to manage their illness.

“Importantly, the centres allow GPs to maintain key services in their own practices, meaning that patients who need investigation for cancer and other serious conditions get the referrals that they require.

“I want to pay tribute to the healthcare teams, led by GPs, who have made such a difference in the fight against the virus. They did not hesitate to rise to the challenge and I have no doubt that their work has helped to save lives.”

In the peak period, between 9 and 22 April, GP practices handled nearly 11,500 queries related to Coronavirus. Around 10% of patients reporting Covid-19 were subsequently seen by GPs at the Covid Centres.

Dr Alan Stout, chair of the BMA Northern Ireland GP Committee, works at the Beech Hall Covid Centre in Belfast.

He said: “The centres are playing a very important role in relieving the pressure on hospitals. If even a fraction of the patients handled in the Covid Centres went to hospital, we would be seeing a very different picture across health and social care.”

The provision of the Covid Centres has freed up GPs to concentrate on delivering care to non-Covid patients with the minimum of disruption. Anyone with health concerns is urged to contact their GP practice in the usual way.

Dr Stout added: “It’s critical to keep GP practices open and ‘clean’ so that doctors can see other patients in a safe environment.”

Concluding, the Health Minister said: Recent weeks have shown the importance of the magnificent efforts of colleagues throughout health and social care to work at rapid pace to build in the capacity we need to tackle this pandemic, while ensuring the quality of day to day service provision for everyone in our community.”

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