Coronavirus: general practitioners could “withdraw their services for lack of PPE”

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General practitioners said there was a particular shortage of masks and aprons


Belfast GP leaders said the system is now in crisis due to the lack of personal protective equipment (PPE).

In a letter to the Ministry of Health, the presidents of the northern and western GP federations said they could be forced to withdraw their services.

They said it was due to “shortages of PPE, especially masks and aprons.”

Health Minister Robin Swann said “the protection and health and safety of our front line staff is a top priority”.

The federations, representing 40 practices and more than 220,000 patients, said that staff and patients were at risk.

“At risk”

There are also concerns about “delivery difficulties with orders placed.”

Speaking to BBC News NI, Dr George O’Neill, president of the West Belfast Federation, said the general practitioners were “scared and anxious.”

“I have many general practitioners who scare me not only for themselves but also for their families in which they return home. But I also practice nurses who are particularly at risk, ”he said.

“What is also worrying is that they all said that they could not speak because they were worried about their jobs. Now is not the time for that. This shouldn’t be a problem.

“Nurses must dress patients with leg ulcers, which require blood samples; they are constantly at risk, as are the patients because there are not enough masks to move around. “

The federations wrote to the Ministry of Health on Wednesday April 8. Deliveries had still not arrived on Saturday.

General practitioners in western Northern Ireland, including those in Fermanagh, Enniskillen and Londonderry, also warn of the lack of equipment.

A general practitioner in Fermanagh said she was unable to run baby clinics because they did not have protective equipment for staff or patients.

Dr. O’Neill acknowledged that this was a global problem, but asked why assurances had been given during Stormont briefings that the PPE had been ordered and that it was being delivered when it was not clearly was not.

“Obviously, there was a lead time that was lost, when more orders and preparations could have been made,” he said.

“I am not blaming anyone, it is not the fault of one person but it is clearly serious. Questions will be asked during an investigation into all of this later.

“Now the priority must be getting the right equipment at the right time in the right place. “

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Health Minister said Covid-19 centers are there to reduce pressure on general practice


Dr. O’Neill suggests that someone be appointed to Northern Ireland to oversee the delivery of equipment through the system.

“At this point, what is in place is not working,” he said.

“The equipment must be shared not only between hospitals, but especially with those who work in community care, especially nursing homes.

“I am deeply concerned about what I know is happening in nursing homes. The elderly residents are dying and the staff are there with them next to them, caring for them with many without the right equipment.

“We signed up to take care of people but not to put our lives at risk. “

Dr. O’Neill said he was also concerned about what was happening in nursing homes.

“The number of deaths per day here does not reflect the number of people who have died in nursing homes and that is worrisome,” he said.

Dr. O’Neill said nursing homes were particularly vulnerable because some residents did not have the ability to tell staff how they felt.

“I know of a house in west Belfast where there have been a disturbing number of deaths – many are linked to Covid – but they are not included in the daily total – so the NI figures are much higher”, he added.

On Sunday it was announced that 11 other people with Covid-19 had died at NI, bringing the total to 118. There have been 1,806 confirmed cases,

Covid-19 Centers

In an email to Dr. O’Neill of the Health and Social Care Board, a spokesperson said that once the orders are processed, distribution will be prepared.

In a statement to BBC News NI, Mr. Swann said his department “is working hard to ensure that vital supplies of PPE are maintained”.

“I know that our general practitioners work hard for all of us and that they still provide essential services to the community, despite the unprecedented challenges they face,” he said.

“General practitioners continue to order and obtain PPE as part of the agreed processes.

“This is also why the Covid-19 primary care centers were created in each trust, in order to preserve essential primary care services by reducing the pressure on general medicine.”

Swann said his department “is working hard to build up our PPE inventory for the second push expected later this year.”

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